The Whole Armor of Personal Finance

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Some of my favorite bible verses are those packed full of encouragement and power.  In the following passage, the Apostle Paul is speaking to the church at Ephesus regarding the battles to be fought, and the weapons with which they should fight.  This text is incredibly uplifting and full of timeless wisdom.

Paul reminds the reader that the Christian battle is not one of flesh and blood, but of principalities, powers, the rulers of this world, and wickedness in high places.

It reminds me of our battle against debt, advertising, commercialism, and the war we fight to gain control over our personal finances.

The Scripture

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”  – Ephesians 6:10-18

The whole armor of God

  1. Loins girt about with Truth
  2. Breastplate of Righteousness
  3. Feet shod with the preparation of The Gospel of Peace
  4. Shield of Faith
  5. Helmet of Salvation
  6. Sword of the Bible

The whole armor of Personal Finance

  1. Loins girt about with Wise Money Management
  2. Breastplate of Frugality
  3. Feet shod with the preparation of Sound Financial Counsel & Education
  4. Shield of Contentment
  5. Helmet of A Proper Money Mindset
  6. Sword of Cutting Expenses

Loins girt about with Wise Money Management

  • Budget to gain control & focus on Spending less than you earn
  • Emergency fund savings – while many say to get at least $1,000 saved for emergencies, I advise to continually fund your emergency fund and other high interest savings accounts by using the percentage approach.  I currently designate 25% of my available funds to my savings even though I am still in debt reduction mode.
  • Debt reduction – where I focus the remaining 75% of my available funds.  It is of the utmost importance to rid yourself of all your high interest consumer debt like credit cards, department store cards, auto loans, etc.  Once you pay off your high interest debt, I advise shifting the majority of your available funds to savings & investments.
  • Invest & continue to save – once you have paid off your high interest consumer debt, continue building your EF and invest the rest in your investment of choice.  Index Funds (through Charles Schwab or Vanguard) are solid, low-cost, choices that will meet market returns.
  • Pay off your mortgage & student loans – once you have your savings funded according to the needs of your individual situation, paint a big bulls-eye on your low interest debt and slash that baby down as quickly as possible.  I may catch flack for saying this, but I am a HUGE proponent of paying off the mortgage and living DEBT FREE.

Breastplate of Frugality

  • Creative mindset – get your creative juices flowing & be resourceful.  Before we do anything now, my wife & I run all our financial decisions through our protective frugal filter.
  • Stop eating out – If you have been following our Debt Free Adventure then you may well know that Mrs. Jabs & me were spending between $5,000 – $6,000 a year eating out at restaurants.  Looking back now, this is absolutely atrocious to me but before equipping ourselves with the breastplate of frugality we just didn’t concern ourselves with the costs.  If you must eat out use my Frugal Guide to Eating Out.
  • Homemade gifts & products – making more things at home including:  food, cleaning products, gifts, home decor, etc. will save you money and bring many other benefits along with it.  We make products such as homemade laundry detergent, toothpaste, deodorant, all-purpose cleaner, homemade dishwasher detergent, etc.  We also stopped buying cards & gifts and choose to make our own now – the results are more personalized, unique, and special than their store-bought counterparts.
  • Use Coupons – When we do buy things we always shop around and seek out coupons.  This is especially useful when shopping on the Internet, before I make any purchase I simply go to Google and type in “Coupon *product I’m buying*”
  • Ask for discounts – I tell my wife all the time, you never know until you ask!  Just a few weeks ago, when putting in my paver patio I saved over $300 by simply asking for a discount due to the volume of my purchase.
  • Decrease use of heat & AC – we used to keep our house at 70 in the winter and 74 in the summer.  Now we keep it at 64 in the winter and have actually been able to keep our A/C off every day this summer except for two!

Feet shod with the preparation of Sound Financial Counsel & Education

  • Adopt a financial mentor – when I truly began to get a hold on my finances at the beginning of this year I found myself in need of some solid financial advice from those who were already standing where I wanted to be.  I decided to adopt a few financial mentors and they continue to be an ENORMOUS blessing in my life.
  • Read personal finance blogs – they’re free and chocked full of sound money advice.  A few great ones to get you started are Frugal Dad, Bible Money Matters, Get Rich Slowly, Five Cent Nickel, and The Simple Dollar
  • Read personal finance books- if you are like JD Roth and you like the smell of books, or you simply love the feeling of a good book in your hands then get started with a few goodies.  I recommend:

Shield of Contentment

  • Simplify your lifebreak free from the culture of temptation that marketers have been driving at us for decades, and choose instead to return to a simpler life.  Ride your bike more, walk more, read more, turn off the TV.  All of these things may seem like sacrifices at first but after being exercised by them Mrs. Jabs & me have realized the true blessings of a simplified life.
  • Determine your needs – what do you need at a most basic level?  Water, food, shelter, and love – everything else is a bonus.
  • Determine your wants – our wants can be endless so it is incredibly important that we realize this and quickly determine what we can do to keep them in check.  What kind of food should we buy?  How big of a house?  What clothes should we wear?  These questions, like many others in this post, will be answered differently based on your income, debt, age, and relationship status so be sure to answer them specific to your position.
  • Find a balance – now that you have separated you wants from your needs, focus on finding that balance where you have what you need, are living below your means, but still comfortable.

Helmet of A Proper Money Mindset

  • Sacrifice now to benefit later – this is actually my entire financial philosophy in a nutshell.  The concept is simple and revolves around my view that it is better to scrimp & save now than it will be when you’re in our 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, & 90′s!
  • Embrace compounding interest – to motivate yourself, calculate how much interest you are paying to big banks and do whatever necessary to reverse that cycle and start paying yourself first.
  • Spend less than you earn & avoid debt – this isn’t rocket science and does not require explanation.
  • Save/invest increasingly – Grow your savings every year, even if you are currently paying debt.  Always pay yourself at least 25% of your extra money each month.
  • Give generously – it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.  Since implementing an automated charitable giving plan earlier this year, my wife & me have never had a better grasp on our finances.

Sword of Cutting Expenses

  • Turn off your TV – I mentioned it earlier in the post and I am purposely mentioning it again.  It is hard to impress upon you the many benefits of canceling your TV service.  I am much more productive in my side hustles, I spend more time with my wife, I accomplish more around house… especially in the way of my “honey do list”.
  • Reduce grocery costsgrow a garden, make more homemade food, stop eating out, buy in bulk, eat locally, preserve the harvest by freezing it and by canning it.
  • Reduce your consumption – I’ll say it again… turn down/off your furnace and turn down/off your air conditioning.  At first we thought this was uncomfortable but found we adapted to the temperature quickly.  Now that we no longer use our A/C we are always very cold when we go into a building that has it in use.
  • Carefully check your monthly bills for errors – I was able to save $160 over the course of two months because my utility company was over charging me.  I am not sure whether this was done on purpose, but regardless, by checking the bill and looking it over carefully I was able to save a lot of money.

I hope you were encouraged by this article, and that it helps to equip you with the whole armor of personal finance so you can protect yourself from the wiles of debt, advertising and commercialism.  Let us fight the good fight of faith and strive to win the daily battle to gain control over our personal finances!



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1 Jason @ Redeeming Riches

Matt, interesting post. This is a good holistic view of personal finance. I think the shield of contentment is so huge in our culture. We are constantly bombarded with messages that we need bigger, better, more and if we can avoid those messages and keep our eyes on the things that truly bring happiness we will be so much better off!

2 Thomas Fox

I enjoyed the post and find it quite valuable. As a personal finance educator, it is information like this that people need to know. I do differ on one point however. In my experience, people DO need an explanation of spending less than you earn & avoiding debt. In our culture we are more commonly referred to as “consumers” as opposed to citizens. With an economy based upon consumer spending, our mindset is conditioned toward participation in the process. Therefore, spending less than you earn and avoiding debt is more of a reconditioning. This being the case, simple and sustainable lessons on adjusting one’s mindset are in order. Of course, this is my humble opinion. Keep up the great work.

3 Matt Jabs

Point taken Thomas… and now that I rethink it, I agree with you. Because I consider these thoughts every day they tend to become “old hat” to me, but the average reader is coming here because they DO need to read about avoiding and spending less than they earn!

I’m going to go back through soon and elaborate on that topic.

Thanks.

4 lrgche

Matt,
In the Wise Money Mgmt section you say: “I advise to continually fund your emergency fund” … so when does “now that you have your savings fully funded” this actually happen? If you’re advice is to continually fund the EF, then it will never really be fully funded. Help me connect these to pieces of advice.

(twitter: @lrgche)

5 Matt Jabs

Great question. I actually changed the last bullet point under Wise Money Management to say, “once you have your savings funded according to the needs of your individual situation…”

When I mentioned continually funding your EF, I was making reference to NOT stopping at $1,000 as suggested by Dave Ramsey fans the world over. However, each of us should have a certain amount of EF savings that we are content with – this amount will of course be different for each individual. Once we reach that level of comfort with our EF savings, then we can halt EF contributions and apportion the money toward our low interest mortgage/student loan debt.

Hope this answers your question, cheers.

6 lrgche

So what does “according to the needs of your individual situation” mean for you personally? You say you are continuing to fund you EF savings with 25% of available funds continuously, even will you aer still in debt. Will you personally not ever reach a comfort level where you can then put 100% available toward debt reduction?

Speaking from the experience of recently becoming debt free (except the house), we got much more momentum from putting 100% than we would have gotten by putting 75% and it would have taken even longer. But here’s the kicker, we did have a comfort level in the EF of around $3k instead of $1k, even though we are avid Dave Ramsey fans. We even bumped it up when the threat of a lay off at my employer was eminent, but then when that passed we pulled it back out and applied to the last of our debt.

7 Matt Jabs

I personally plan to stop funding my EF savings when I reach $20,000. I plan to stop funding my auto fund at $10,000. I plan to stop funding my vacation fund at $2,000/year.

We will NOT have the above amounts in these funds while we still have high interest debt. But we do not want to stop at $1,000 because (as you seem to agree w/from your EF amount) we do not feel comfortable halting contributions at that level. So we will continue putting 25% into the EF while paying off our high interest debt.

Once the high interest debt is paid off, we will then focus 100% of our available income into the above funds until they reach the above numbers.

Once that is done, we plan to stop funding the above accounts and start putting all (or at least a vast majority) of our available funds toward our low rate mortgage and student loans.

Does that answer your question?

It actually looks like you did the same thing, but took a different route. Instead of using the percentage model that I use to fund your EF while paying back high interest debt, you essentially halted your debt repayment to fund your EF for a few months.

That few months may have equated to the same dollar amounts we stand to realize by using the percentage approach over time. See what I’m saying?

8 Kevin@OutOfYourRut

Matt–I’m with Jason on the shield of contentment. That’s the foundation our consumption patterns are built on, one way or the other. The whole marketing culture has a vested interest in stirring up unhappiness with what we have in order to get us to replace it with what they’re selling.

What’s worse is that we tend to go with that flow and succumb to it as a sort of default setting. Unless we’re purposeful in resisting it, it pulls us in. Getting rid of TV, as you suggested, is a good first step to reducing the influence. But it can get as extreme as needing to find some new friends who aren’t as entrenched in that culture as some of the older ones might be. Tough choices, there’s no way around them.

So many forces, so little time to understand how they direct us…

9 Brad @enemyofdebt

Great post Matt!

I agree with you on the emergency fund. We saved $2,000 for our baby emergency fund, instead of the $1,000 suggested. I think there is an emotional amount that allows us to continue our plan without concern. That amount is different for everyone which is why I wrote a series that expands on DR’s baby steps to account for individual situations and desires.

I like the way you connected the protection of armor with behavior, attitude, and knowledge.

10 Vince Collaso

Excellent and informative article!
I’m bookmarking this now.

11 PT

I love this. I had an army of God action figure as a kid. Brought back good memories. And you make excellent points with your correlation to finance.

12 Matt Jabs

Ha ha… did your action figures look anything like my wife’s awesome drawing? :-)

13 Jason @ Redeeming Riches

I’m not sure the amount really matters ultimately in the EF as long as you have something. I think the $1,000 is a great start. If someone is more comfortable putting 100% down on the debt instead of 75% that’s ok too. There is no hard or fast rules when it comes to paying down debt other than the fact of don’t spend more than you make, which I thought was obvious but as Thomas points out above people need to be reconditioned.

@Kevin – Great point about being purposeful to avoid the marketing traps and messages that are out there. We have to be vigilant because the message of frivolity and materialism is everywhere!

14 lrgche

Matt, Brad (others)
On the surface we all seem to agree. $1000 may not be the right amount for your starter, baby, emergency fund, but where I seem to differ, at least with Matt, is that I think there should be an amount, smaller than your fully funded amount, where you stop adding to that emergency fund and focus on getting rid of the debt, all the debt except the house. Then after the debt is gone, then resume contributing to the emergency fund until it’s fully funded.

Another point that I would not agree with is Matt’s continued funding of a car fund while still in debt and the emergency fund is still less than fully funded. I believe this is just a matter of intensity. My family’s desire was to be out of debt rather than have money for a newer car. Just to be clear, the car I drive every day to work is 16yrs old with 203,000 miles, so we do plan to fund a car fund, but not until all the debt is gone and out emergency fund is fully funded.

Basically I not a fan of trying to tackle so many things at one time with a limited amount of extra money. Trying to pay down debt AND get $20 in EF, AND get $10K in car fund, AND get……
Why not just focus on one, with a starter EF in place, then move on to next? Once you are debt free, then you could be more flexible.

15 Matt Jabs

You’re right… basically we all agree & have the same goals in mind.

“You can’t go wrong getting out of debt.” Personal finance is a personal journey. As long as you are following a few basic key principles… you can’t really go wrong.

Thanks for all the input on this guys – I decided to write a post dedicated to the subject today – check it out… “Debt Reduction – Emergency Fund Savings – The Balanced 75/25 Method

16 Veronica's debt guide

This is an interesting post and can’t agree with you more. Especially about contentment. If everyone were happy with they have instead of buying the new and the better, they’d save more money.

17 Kevin @ Debteye

I love the “Sacrifice now, and benefit later”

People are too caught up in the present day to “keep up with the joneses” They always have to have the latest fashion, technology, or TV. Great article, definitely going to mention this in my new weekly round up.

18 Matt Jabs

Thanks Kevin… the happiest people I know are those who have learned to make due with essentials – even if they can afford more. :)

19 Kevin @ Debteye

There was a book, I forgot what I was called, saying that everything you need in life should fit into 1 suitcase..

20 Paula @ Afford Anything

These are all great tips to bear in mind. I’m not a fan of clipping and storing coupons, but I definitely also Google “coupon + product name and/or retailer name” before I make an online buy. I grow a garden, I eat at restaurants less (I no longer do it for convenience, I do it only if its a very deliberate decision) and I keep the A/C at 80 degrees in the summer. I have a much harder time keeping the heat low, though … I get cold easily, no matter how many layers I wear!

21 Barbara Weatherly

I am also working toward being debt free. for the moment, I think I will do 100% toward the debt, or at least 90%

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