Forum Posts

Todd Alan Clary
Aug 22, 2022
In General Content
Greetings! I haven't been as prolific in my posts over the last week or two. I apologize for that. For now, I'm going to be taking a break from writing posts each week to focus my energy in other areas of my life. I'm not sure when I would be able to get back to posting regularly again. Thank you all for your support for my posts. I pray you each have a great week and continue to encourage each other through the days ahead!
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Todd Alan Clary
Aug 17, 2022
In General Content
Today, I'm going to take a bit of a different tactic. I intend to engage your imagination. Think of an open spot of land, perhaps next to a river, or in the middle of the woods, or wherever you would feel most safe and content. Bring it to life in your mind. Some place that allows you to let go easily of all the cares and worries of your day, week, or month. In fact, you can allow yourself to enjoy that relative peace for now before we move forward. Once you have had your fill, it is time to start building a sanctuary for yourself here. Imagine the perimeter of perhaps a dream house in this idyllic setting. The perimeter of this house, very basically, outlines its boundaries. This is only as far as it can grow unless something changes. Your budget is very much the same way. It can only grow to the limits of your income. If your budget needs to be larger, then your income needs to grow to allow the extra room. Imagine placing the outline markings for this place. Once you have your markings for the outline of your house in this wonderfully serene, peaceful setting, it needs to be secured. No place is completely safe from the elements. If you spend time looking at building sites, you will notice that the construction work involves digging into the ground before laying down a foundation. This is to secure the building into the earth and help prevent it from washing away in strong rains or floods. Your sanctuary place should be the same. We aren't trying to protect against natural storms, however. The storms we are securing against are the emotional storms brought on by unexpected bad circumstances. Things like an unexpected job loss, economic uncertainty, or intense relational or emotional stress. You see, your sanctuary needs to be secured against these storms by digging into the ground of your peaceful setting. How secure this foundation is will be determined by your own personal commitment to living within your means. This means not spending more money than you bring in as income. The more you stand against the temptation to go above your own income in spending the deeper and more secure this foundation will be. If the commitment is deep and strong enough, no emotional storm can wash away this place of retreat and regroup. As you look at your budget today, I encourage and challenge you to view it as this retreat you have in your mind. A place where you can go and feel comfortable enough to recharge to face new financial challenges. Not only that, but you can use it to dream up the next big money goals you and/or your family can begin to tackle. I would encourage you to draw this setting and your sanctuary out on some paper and leave it around to remind you of this exercise. Also, please keep in mind, that we have only begun to build this place. Join me next week as we continue to build your Money House.
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Todd Alan Clary
Aug 15, 2022
In General Content
Many people look at tracking your spending as a chore. It can feel restricting, telling yourself that you can't do something or buy something you want with the money you earned. However, this can be just another lie that we tell ourselves especially in regard to our money. As we live out our lives, if we aren't intentionally tracking our spending against certain goals, we are really just lying to ourselves. Consider how we forget most of the things we spend money on in a month as it progresses. Could you remember what you had for breakfast last week let alone how much and how many times you got coffee at Dutch Bros.? What about your last trip to the grocery store? Do you remember how much that was if it was more than a few days ago (and you don't have the receipt nearby)? Forgetting all of these expenditures can give us a false sense of security. We can easily start lying to ourselves about our financial situation. "Sure, I can go out to lunch with you! I've got the money. I can't remember when I last went out to lunch." Even though you may have gone out just two weeks ago. Building and sticking to a budget helps you keep the truth in front of you. Reality doesn't lie. When you document your spending decisions in a way you can easily reference, without having to remember it all the time, the truth of your situation stares back at you. It can feel quite uncomfortable, but it helps you make wiser decisions. How much easier would it be to say "no" to coffee again if you knew that was $5 less you would have to pay down one of your credit cards and be done with it sooner? Going into this week, I challenge you to track your expenses, all of them. Bring them out of your head and into reality. Stop renewing your license to lie to yourself over and over again. Look at the truth in front of you. You may be surprised how it sets you free.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 29, 2022
In General Content
Jim could not remember the last time he got so dressed up or went to such a nice place for dinner for anyone besides clients. He had his best suit on. These reservations were made two months ago. Sarah was also wondering when the last time she put on the kind of dress she was currently wearing. How many anniversaries ago was it? Five? Seven? She wondered where they were going. The last two months had been rather smooth comparatively. Jim hadn't been nearly as stressed out as he had been. He was more engaged with the kids and less distant or distracted by work or whatever else he would do off in his study. She liked the change but apprehension still skulked around in her mind. "Here we are," Jim announced cheerfully. "Wow! When did you plan this? Can we even afford this place?" Sarah's questions came as a mixture of surprise, excitement, and dutiful skepticism. After all, it wasn't very long ago that they would fight over whether or not they could all just go to McDonald's! Jim simply answered, with a knowing smile, "yes, beautiful, we absolutely can." When was the last time we fought about money? Or for that matter, when did I last look at the budget? Sarah's thoughts were sudden, as sudden as the realization of how things had changed over the last several months. As Jim opened the door, the couple waded into the atmosphere thick with pleasant and mouthwatering aromas. Steaks beautifully seared had their delicious scent wafted toward the couple as fluid dynamics dictated when they opened the door. Wine glasses dinged together in toasts. Conversations melded together to created a pleasant din and allowed the couple an odd form of privacy at their table. Jim pulled his wife's chair back for her. Just as he had opened the door for her when they go into the car, out of the car, and came into the restaurant. One of his objectives tonight was to be the gentleman he was when he was courting this woman, Sarah. Poring over the menu, Sarah could not help but notice the prices. Old habit. Each entrée increased in price as she moved through the menu. Her first choice ended up being an appetizer because it was the only thing that seemed to cost less than a meal for three somewhere else. She leaned over the table closer to her husband, Jim. "Are you sure we can afford this? Look at what this stuff costs!" Speaking softly and covering her face with the menu in case any of the other patrons could read lips. "I know it's expensive. This is a gift to you. Not just dinner, but I have something else to show you tonight." Jim produced his phone from his jacket pocket. After quickly unlocking it he opened up the budget application and navigated to what he had planned for tonight. "This is the budget for tonight," he stated confidently as he showed her. "Oh!" Sarah's surprise squeaked out. "Really?!" "Yes, really." Sarah returned to the menu to find something she really wanted instead of what only she thought they could afford.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 27, 2022
In General Content
Summertime is full of trips, picnics, outdoor exploration, and sometimes family reunions. Each provides a special experience for you and your family. Whether it is going somewhere you have never been, seeing the beauty of nature around you, or fraternizing with family not seen for a while, your opportunities for wonderful experiences abound. These experiences are so tempting that we want to make every effort to ensure we get to do them. What this sometimes means is the fun is financed on a credit card, loaned from a friend or family member, or even through a payday lender. Each of these options is going to cost you. It may cost you more money. You may pay a higher emotional price than you thought. Sometimes it is both! It is a difficult thing to face your limitations, physically or financially. What if you did things differently to take your limitations and work around them? For instance, if you know a trip is coming up for several months, you can prepare for it by stashing away money using your budget. You can set up a category for summer fun activities. If you can afford to put say $200 a month away, in just six months you can have $1200 worth of fun guilt free! The experience can be bigger if you are able to put more away and/or put it away consistently for longer. If you put the same $200 away consistently for an entire year, you can have $2400 saved. Imagine what peace you could have if you could say "yes" to taking your family to an amusement park for the day with no worries. What would it mean to you if every time you were asked "can we," you could respond with "yes." No qualms, worries, arguments, or deals. Just "yes." If you have a family trip planned, big or small, I challenge you to plan for it now. Set aside as much money as you can for the sole purpose of having an amazing time. Perhaps it's time to own the fun instead of it owning you.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 25, 2022
In General Content
I'm a software engineer by trade. That means I talk with computers all day programming them to do things. One of the jokes we have as engineers is the idea of "feature creep." "Feature creep" is the idea that as a project is being worked on, those that drive the project requirements can often ask for small extra "features" to be added in. Usually, they are presented as small things that can be added in during normal development with no impact on deadlines. If there were just a few little "features," then that would be true. However, it often turns out that one feature turns into another, then another, and another. Thus the feature list "creeps" longer and longer. We are susceptible to this in our personal lives as well. Especially if we are earning raises or moving jobs for higher pay. When you get that higher pay, at first you want to celebrate the culmination of your hard work. I would agree that celebrating your accomplishment is a good idea. Once the celebration is done, though, we often look to little lifestyle "improvements" that we can now afford. Perhaps it is another streaming service subscription. Now you can eat out a little more often so you choose to. Since you can afford it, your kids may finally get to do things like gymnastics or learn to play an instrument. In the moment, each of these things may seem innocuous and affordable. I encourage you to be careful that you don't say yes to so much you no longer have any of your newfound income to further your main goals. If you are striving to pay off credit cards, then every dollar spent on a new subscription service you didn't have before is one less dollar you are using to pay down that debt. If you are changing jobs or getting a raise, I encourage you to look at how that increase in income can help you complete your goals. Even an extra $500 per month can mean $6000 more debt paid off by the end of the year. Or that could be $6000 more in your Emergency Fund should something unforeseen and terrible occur. Your increased income is definitely a blessing. When you further your noble goals with it, you continue that blessing long after it's initial awarding. This week I challenge you to resist the "lifestyle creep" and focus more on the goal ahead. Besides, once the goal is accomplished, you should have a LOT more room in your budget (and thus, permission) to engage in that lifestyle creep on purpose!
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 22, 2022
In General Content
"Alright, I guess it's finally time to do the damn thing." Jim had not been looking forward to this part of his day today. In fact, he had largely been dreading it. The words of his new mentor were still ringing true in his ears. "Put it off as long as you like. Every day you do so brings you closer to losing this dream project and clients of yours." "Fine Bob, I'll do this thing now, but I still don't understand what will change that will help me land this project! Now, what was that first thing I needed to do again? Ah, right, I need to write down my income first." This was a strange notion to Jim. His income hadn't really mattered to him as long as it was more than what they needed to spend. "What does it matter," he thought, "as long as I'm able to work hard enough to bring more in than we spend out?" With the paper in front of him, he wracked his brain over what number to put in. "Last year, I brought in $186,000. I guess I could start there." He wrote $186,000 in the slot marked "Income." "Jim, your yearly income isn't what matters for this kind of thing. Trying to keep your expenses tracked against a goal over 365 days is too much. Try sticking with what you bring in for the next month only." Bob's words bubbled up out of his subconscious memory unbidden. "Right. I need to know what I think I will make next month. Got it." Jim started poring over what next month's income should be. "I don't know! This is what I pay a bookkeeper for! I guess I will stick with what I made last year. I guess that would be the $186,000 split up over 12 months." Some quick numbers typed into the calculator in front of him revealed, "$15,500?! For a month? That doesn't seem right." Jim thoughts were a mixture of surprise and confusion with a twinge of anxiety. "If I had that much laying around I wouldn't feel so broke! Now what the hell was I supposed to do next?" Jim spent the next twenty minutes writing expenses down as categories, then looked at his paper, couldn't think of anything else, and said "this seems pretty good. I bet Bob will be surprised at how much I actually thought of!" He put the papers away and got back to his "real" work.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 20, 2022
In General Content
Many of us have goals we set before us. They can be big goals like going back to school for a new degree or smaller goals like vacuuming certain room(s) of the house over a weekend. Either way we set things before us that we strive toward. In fact, our well being is somewhat determined by what we are striving to achieve. For instance, you may be trying to achieve a promotion at your place of employment. To accomplish this, you start finding out what the expectations of the job you wish to attain are. Then you start adopting that work as if you already had the job. You likely won't land it next week, however, you are taking intentional steps in the direction of that next goal. Doing so gives you a greater purpose and helps you feel better about yourself and what you are doing. If you don't have that next goal, then all of the little distractions around you become more insistent. Instead of intentionally tackling new challenges, you may settle into the comfort of your current job. You can find yourself spinning around, attending to all the little distractions (coffee talk, web surfing, etc.) around you in your current spot and making no progress forward. We have similar issues moving forward with our money goals. Many of us live paycheck to paycheck, thus it is difficult to look ahead to a larger goal. Thus, all the distractions again are more prominent. It's been a long day at work and you don't want to prepare dinner, so you go out to eat. Life events have heaped stress on you so you focus on relieving that stress though shopping. Someone cut you off on the freeway, now you feel you need a coffee from a drive-thru to "reset your mind." Each of these things can feel larger than they need to or smaller. It depends on the focus you give them. Today I encourage you to set up some money goals for yourself and/or your family. Perhaps they are more near term like paying off smaller credit cards. Maybe you set a larger goal of a fully-funded Emergency Fund (3-6 months of expenses saved in cash). Whatever your goal is, after you have set it, put a reminder in your house somewhere you will see it every day. Have this reminder available so you keep your goal in mind instead of allowing the distractions to run your decisions. You may find the distractions are significantly less demanding of your attention while you have it fixed to something greater.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 18, 2022
In General Content
Taking stock of your total expenses and spending is all well and good. You can finally see where you tend to spend all of your money. Once you know that, what next? Is there a next step or something that this knowledge helps you see? All over the United States and your local city or community, there are organizations and people that could benefit from money and/or time donated from others. Not only in the United States, but all over the world. There are organizations that help dig fresh water wells in other countries to provide easier access to healthy water. Food banks collect and distribute food to various organizations helping them to feed those they serve. Other organizations exist to guide and help women through pregnancy during crisis periods in their lives. I know of a great local organization that trains volunteers to watch foster and special needs children while the parents get a few hours to themselves to go to the store or just have a date. Have you felt challenged to support one or more of these worthwhile causes? Has the thought of supporting them financially been a stressful experience? Knowing where all of your money is going can help you evaluate if some of those things are good for you and your family. If not, we are still sometimes hesitant to make changes because we are comfortable where we are. I know that I spend too much money buying snacks. However, I can challenge myself to do things differently by asking a question. Which do I want more? Do I want the momentary and fleeting feeling of sugar and carbs? Do I want to help make a lasting impression in the lives of others? As you make your budget for August (yes, it should be done before August begins), perhaps you can evaluate where you might plan generosity into your budget. Ask yourself the question above if you find yourself stuck on reducing or eliminating certain categories. After planning and giving away the money, you may be surprised at how you feel.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 13, 2022
In General Content
Have you ever felt trapped in your current budget situation? Do you feel like you've squeezed all you can out of the budget, but there just isn't enough there? Does it feel like everywhere you turn there is pain and insurmountable difficulty ahead? I liken these feelings to finding yourself standing on what seems like a mountain encircled all around by thick fog. You aren't able to see but a few feet in any direction. No matter which way you look the ground seems treacherous. The strong desire is to move forward, but you just don't know what direction to go. Recently I had a client in a similar situation. The budget felt "complete" and it seemed there wasn't much of anything else that could be done to move toward her more immediate goals more quickly. Her day got even better when a trusted mechanic gave her bad news about her car. The car was going to need a significant amount of work to be properly maintained. More than was feasible in their budget or with the age of the car. This situation forced a perspective change in my client. That her car needed so much work is bad news, to be sure. However, it presented her with a chance to look at things differently. A different option was presented that was completely new to her at that time. She could sell her car and drive another car they have to her work. At first glance, this may seem a simple thing. Consider the analogy of the mountain and the fog from earlier. When this option was presented, the fog around her cleared enough to see another path forward. This path, while still rocky, looked significantly more stable than anything she was considering just a few days before. Not only is the path ahead stable and safer, this path moves her more quickly toward her budget goals! Once she realized that, she took that path with renewed confidence and drive. If you are feeling stuck where you are at with your saving or debt payoff goals. If you feel like you've done everything you can, perhaps a shift in perspective can help that fog clear and reveal a new and safer, more stable path forward than you considered possible before.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 11, 2022
In General Content
When you start being intentional about your spending and money goals, you may find yourself driven toward the goals in the most direct and efficient ways possible. I tend to be that way. I want to take the shortest path toward the goal, almost regardless of difficulty. In fact, the difficulty gives that path the allure of a worthy challenge. This method may work well for some of us. Especially those that are taking on this adventure alone. Many of us have people we love and care about deeply along this journey with us. A spouse, children, or just very close family and friends. At times they can provide input and suggest spending money in ways that seem like impediments to our progress toward our money goals. Like rocks suddenly dropped onto the path forward making it even more difficult. A request to spend time together at dinner out at a restaurant. Family vacation(s) get planned with you expected to join. Birthdays and anniversaries continue to be on the same days each year. I know I've had to change my thinking on these things lately. When these requests come up, they are not done to impede forward progress toward a goal. Instead, they are asking to be present with me and my family. Is this not one of the reasons we make the effort to track and be intentional about our spending? To put our money toward the truly important things? If that answer is 'yes' for you, then I challenge you to act toward these requests like a river reacts to new rocks or boulders suddenly in it's path. The river doesn't charge through the obstacles. It does not roar and foam at the sudden increase in difficulty in tracing it's path. No, the river accepts the new realities and flows around them, accepting them as simply there, without malice or frustration. After a time, the new obstacles become a part of the river, shaping the new path and changing it into something different, and possibly better. Water rafting wouldn't be as much fun at all without the obstacles that make the rapids in the first place! All the while, the river still reaches it's destination. This week, as summer continues and new plans are made, I challenge you to accept them as the river does. Focus less on the "impediment" itself, and more on the new path you can chart around it to incorporate it, if necessary, into your path forward. I know I will be taking this more to heart myself going forward. I will act less like a charging rhinoceros toward a stubborn goal. Instead, I shall flow around the obstacles, and be at peace with changing destinations. May each and every one of you have a blessed week!
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 06, 2022
In General Content
On Monday, I wrote about our freedom and how we use it to make choices that end up limiting our freedom. This is a human thing. We have all done it before and will likely do those or similar things again in the future. Today, I'd like to focus on taking responsibility for those choices. Taking responsibility is a hard thing to do. It requires us to look in the mirror, admit and accept that we made a mistake. Our choice(s) screwed something up. We must face the fact that we aren't perfect, don't know everything, and still need to learn things the hard way. It would be much easier to look around at people and circumstances surrounding our choice or situation and point our fingers to say "it was their fault!" That, in our heads, seems to absolve us of the responsibility to look at ourselves honestly. It feels good sometimes to think that we weren't actually the ones at fault. Perhaps we were only an innocent bystander caught up in someone else's mistake. However that doesn't solve the issue long term. It just delays the inevitable. At some point we will see another mistake and we won't be able to shift blame to someone else. With regard to spending, it may require a shift in budget priorities to meet the obligation your mistake has put upon you. Again, there is no shame in taking these corrective measures. In fact, taking these steps is more healthy than sticking your head in the sand! Remember that your budget is meant to be a set of guidelines that keep you on the path toward your goals. The limits you set in budget items should not be moved without some effort. For instance, it is not easy to remove or move the guard rails along mountainous roads. There is effort and cost associated with changing those safety measures. The road must be closed so the workers can dismantle the metal then have the heavy machinery come in and pull up the posts. Once that is done, then the work to put the guard rails back can begin. With your budget, if you've messed up, I encourage you to face the mistakes and make the painful changes to your budget to correct them. If you overspent celebrating your freedom, I challenge you to make that right and plan to pay it back in full sooner rather than later. This may require you to sacrifice some other budget items you would rather keep around. So be it. This pain will be temporary and afterward you will feel much better for having done things right instead of procrastinating them again. After all, the saying still goes, "no pain, no gain!"
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 04, 2022
In General Content
Here in America, today we celebrate our independence from Great Britain (and/or alien invasion). We celebrate the freedom we have to say and do what we want. With that freedom comes the possibility that we will make decisions that limit our freedom. America as a nation fought a war to be free from control and taxation from a far away country. Sadly, many of us use this freedom to spend, justify borrowing money, and putting ourselves into debt. Debt limits us by taking more of what we earn away. I've written before that debt is the gift that keeps on taking. Each and every month you pay money in interest for the privilege of having borrowed money for some large (or small) purchase. Every dollar that is paid in interest is one less dollar you could have used more fruitfully or put it to work for you. Today, as we gather to watch fireworks, spend time with family and reflect on America and all of the blessings we have here, I challenge you to consider working toward your own financial independence. It will make a world of difference for you and your family's future.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jul 01, 2022
In General Content
The door slammed, suddenly knocking the anger out of him as he realized he wasn't as in control as he thought he was. "Nevermind," he thought quickly, "I have to get to work now." Walking quickly and with animated purpose to the car, he deftly unlocked it with his trusty key fob. The engine was turned over almost before his other foot was inside the door. If he had been slightly slower, the door would have come closed on said foot. That would have further set his day off on the wrong track. A commute to work is a magical thing, at least for Jim. No matter how frustrated, angry, or even joyful he is when he leaves his house, all of those thoughts are gone by the time he gets to work. A quick stop for coffee to get his day started, this time with an extra set of calories to offset what he missed this morning due to an argument. Plastic is swiped quickly and emotionlessly. He never even mentally processed the price. The morning's argument was almost a distant memory by this point. Thoughts of his calendar and tasks to accomplish throughout the day have crowded out the swirling emotions. The mental box for those feelings had been safely put away, bouncing around with energy and in anticipation of being opened up again. Jim had looked to get some eggs for breakfast while everyone else slept. Even after moving seemingly everything out of the way in the fridge, he didn't see any eggs. He also couldn't find a single slice of bread to make any toast with either. The alien situation started his aggravation. As he sat in hunger drinking some water, his wife Sarah had come down. "Why don't we have any eggs or bread?" Jim tried to ask politely. The words 'good morning' were not in his current vocabulary. "You ate the last of them yesterday. I can't go to the store because we don't have the money for more food right now." Sarah replied, disappointment and brewing fear of the impending argument thinly veiled. "What do you mean we 'don't have the money'?!" "Just the words that I said, Jim, we don't have the money." "Nonsense! Just put it on that new card we signed for last week. I'll have more paying jobs at the company by the end of the month." "Jim, I don't feel right buying food with borrowed money at 30% interest!" "30%?! No way, I looked at the terms myself, it wasn't a point over eighteen!" Jim was rather confident he had just won that little battle. "Whatever, just go to work. I don't want to deal with your crap right now. The kids will be up soon and I have to figure out something for them. Just go do whatever you want to do for your own food." The words hit Jim harder than he had expected. He couldn't express his feelings at the moment. The only thing he knew is that he was angry at these words from his wife. With his fresh anger barely under control, he headed toward the door.
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Todd Alan Clary
Jun 29, 2022
In General Content
In some of my conversations, it comes out that one or both of us feels alone in some of our thoughts and questions. For example, you may feel you are the only one that seems to live paycheck to paycheck. I can assure you that is not the case at all. In fact, recent articles have been highlighting the fact that people making six figure incomes still live paycheck to paycheck! That is surprising to hear. At least for me, most of the time I'm thinking those that look like they have it all together, do have it all together. The simple truth is the odds are not in favor of that assumption. Several years ago a survey was done of American households. It found that 76% of them lived paycheck to paycheck! Three-fourths of all households in America will have a problem if even one paycheck is late or doesn't arrive at all! That is a sobering thought to me. The sobering news doesn't stop there. Fortune.com in 2021 also did a survey and found that only 68% of American households can afford just a $400 emergency. That may not even cover a new set of tires for your car! Whatever you are feeling about your own financial situation, know you aren't alone. Plenty of people and families are struggling with the same questions and difficulties. Not everyone will reach out for guidance or be comfortable acknowledging this lack of information. I challenge and encourage you to not continue in that fear. Reach out to someone, a friend, trusted family member, or even me. Sharing your fears and questions can go a long way to helping you not feel alone. You may even be further encouraged and challenged to do things differently for the better!
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Todd Alan Clary
Jun 22, 2022
In General Content
I've not been golfing many times in my life. In fact, I have only done 18 holes once and it was a part of a celebration of interns at the company I worked for. Aside from that I have only done miniature golfing. In golf, each hole has what is called a par. This is a number that represents how many hits of the ball or strokes it should take to get the ball to and into the hole. It is a relatively low number despite the long distances some holes have between where you tee off (start) and where you put the ball into the hole. The player that has the lowest score, as in, took the fewest shots to get the ball into each of the holes wins! With a budget, you can think of each of your planned amount as a "par" for the budget item. The goal for each month is to keep your total expenses below that amount. Unlike the par for a golf hole, you are in charge of what that limit is. You set the value that you intend to beat each month. Just like in golf though, the more you are "under par" in your budget shows how much you are winning! By staying under the budget limit, you are keeping more of your money each month. This can be used to pay off debt, build an emergency fund, or start working for your future in a retirement account! If you are a golf enthusiast, and you happen to be struggling with budgeting and living under your limits, I challenge you to treat your budget like a golf game. See how far under par you can be by the end of the next month!
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Todd Alan Clary
Jun 20, 2022
In General Content
I've written before about down or bear markets. Though it seems life today is filled with less than stellar news about everything. The economy, gas prices, inflation, falling cryptocurrency, or wars in other parts of the world all contribute to a feeling that things are just rolling downhill out of control. Whether that is the case or not, what we can do individually doesn't change. Our responsibilities to our families, friends, customers, and/or coworkers should drive us to face the reality and build our own solutions. One way we can do this is by keeping ourselves more grounded in the reality around us. How might one do that anyway? I've written before about how a budget allows you to bring your fears and anxieties into reality to be dealt with. The same is true during uncertain times. Instead of letting fear cloud your vision of the future, start clarifying that future by writing your more immediate responsibilities down. Do you have family? Write your responsibilities to them down in a journal or just on some paper. Do you have coworkers? Document what responsibilities you have to them. Do you have customers? Jot down ways that you might help your customers navigate these uncertain times. When we let that fog of uncertainty fill our vision, we are almost compelled to sit still. Our drive to make a difference or continue forward is diminished with the fear of what we can't see. We may even believe we are justified in waiting for someone to come "rescue" us from this situation. Unlike natural fog, this cloudiness can be dispelled by our own intentional actions. I encourage you to take steps this week to fight off the uncertainty and understand how you can be of more service today to others. While you may be able to dispel the fog around you, others may not feel they are able and could benefit from your experience. You may find that focusing more on what can be done around you also helps you deal with the things you cannot control. Whatever you decide to do, I pray you have a blessed week!
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Todd Alan Clary
Jun 17, 2022
In General Content
"Isn't a budget just the money you have left over after all the bills are paid," she asked inquisitively. "I can see why you might think that, but no. A budget isn't just the money you have left over after all the bills." I had engaged this sudden conversation because helping others better understand what a budget is and how it can be useful to them is somewhat of a passion of mine lately. "If that isn't true, then what is a budget?" "Excellent question! A budget is basically your plan for spending money for an entire month." "Wait, you mean even for the bills and stuff?" "Yes, even for the bills and stuff. You see, a budget helps you see where you want your money to go and also where you end up sending it." "Huh? I'm confused. What do you mean by 'sending' it? I thought you spent money." "Indeed you do, but isn't that also sending it away from you? Aren't you presenting someone or some company your money in exchange for something like food or electricity?" "I guess that's true. But what is a budget supposed to look like. I know I need to do it better but I'm not sure where to start!" "If I may, I can help you get started by showing you how you to build one from scratch." "That would be really helpful. How do you start building a budget?" "The first thing you do when building a budget from scratch is write down your total household income for the next month. Ideally you are doing this before the next month begins. For example, we are currently in June. I would be challenging you to create a budget for July now." "Why would I want to create it for July? We are still in the middle of June!" "I get that. Because we are in the middle of June it is difficult to separate what you want to do from what you have already done as far as spending money. A good budget is set up beforehand. That way you know the goals targets you have to reach throughout the month." "That makes sense. Can you stay a little while longer and help me through this? There seems to be a lot of stuff to get through to do this right." "Indeed there is. I've got some more time and I'd be happy to help you out more. Let's dig in!"
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Todd Alan Clary
Jun 15, 2022
In General Content
Earlier this week I had a brief conversation with someone about budgets. This person told me that she thought a budget was the money left over after you paid all your normal bills. Unfortunately, she is probably not alone in thinking this way. If I may, I'd like to clarify what a budget is today. A budget is an entire plan for a month's worth of spending. At least with personal finance it is. Businesses use budgets that perhaps have longer time frames, but they still encompass all of the planned spending within that time frame. One does not simply budget a fraction of one's income that is "left over" from all the other necessities. One makes a budget out of one's whole income. You see, a budget is something that you use to also track those necessary expenses. Even though we may sometimes fall into believing certain expenses are non-negotiable, sometimes indeed they are! As an example, perhaps you believe that your phone bill has to be $100+ a month in order to have all the features in a phone plan that you need. If you do some shopping around you may find that other, smaller carriers can offer very comparable plans at lower rates. Sometimes these rates may be significantly lower! To further illustrate, my family has 3 cell phones with unlimited talk and text with a little bit of data on one line. We pay roughly $55 per month for this plan. Rent, food, utilities, gas, and even insurance premiums should all have a place in your budget. Not only these things, but the fun things too! Dinner out, vacations, drinks with friends, and ice cream with the family, are all things that can and should be planned out in your budget along with your necessities. If you have been taking a fractional look at your budget, thinking it is the whole picture, today I challenge you to take a wider look at it. Take your budget in as a whole, not just part of your monthly spending. I trust you will find it enlightening!
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Todd Alan Clary
Jun 13, 2022
In General Content
At some point or another, we all struggle with impulsiveness. The desires of the moment seem to override and temporarily wipe from our memory the greater goals and aspirations we have. These are frustrating times to be in because there is something you want later more than what you want now, but the now is significantly louder in the moment. How might we be more ready for battle in these instances? Ready to overcome the momentary desires in favor of the greater ones? I have a suggestion. One way to fight your own impulses is to have reminders of what you are striving for. For example, I challenge my clients to write down their goals on something they can attach to a thing or place in their house they will see each and every day. The repetition of this can help shift your mindset more toward the longer term goal and away from the short-term. In this way we also help fight how we can "forget" about our greater goals in the moments we are tempted to sabotage them even just a little bit. What are your greater money goals? Saving more? Sending more to retirement accounts? Reducing spending? I suggest you write them down, bring them into reality, and place them somewhere you will see them consistently. A daily reminder can go a long way to helping you stay on track and avoid the shame of stepping off of your path forward, no matter how temporarily.
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Todd Alan Clary

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