Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Budgeting Tips

Saving money is not the easiest thing to do, especially for a college student like me! One of the most valuable tips that I have ever learned when it comes to money is making a budget and sticking to it! But, that's much easier said than done. There have been so many times that I have made a budget but didn't follow through with it. I would plan how much money would go into savings, how much would go into gas, how much would go into food, etc. but then I could never keep track of it. I would just keep swiping my debit card until I realized "Oops, I'm almost out of money!"So, I decided to start a new system and I'm happy to share it with you!

When starting a budget, you have to consider every area in which you spend money and where you need to save. The categories I have in my budget are Savings, Tithe, Gas, Food and Misc. Thankfully, right now I'm living in a dorm so I don't have any bills to pay. After considering all the categories, you then need to find out what percentage you will put in each. My whole life I have learned that I should always tithe 10% and save at least 15%. I personally like to save more than that simply because I know that as soon as I graduate, I will have tons of loans to start paying off from my education. (Side note: Debt is something I will always try to avoid, but a college education is worth it!) So I put 20% of my earnings into saving. Next is gas. Gas can always be a little iffy because prices are always changing and you might drive more one week than you will another. I have found that I typically spend about 20% of my earnings on gas, but to be safe, I chose to put 25% of my earnings in to gas... just in case! Next is food! With food, you need to consider how much you spend going out, how much you spend on groceries, how much you spend on random drink stops, etc. For me, 25% of my earnings usually covers it and then some. Finally I have a section for miscellaneous spending. This would include clothes, anything I want to buy myself, birthday presents, etc. In my opinion, this category is the least important because it isn't a necessity like all of the other categories. For this section, I simply calculated the total percentage I have accumulated from Savings, Tithe, Gas, and Food, and whatever was leftover went to misc. For me, that leaves 20%.

I know that was a long explanation, so to put it simply, this is what my budget looks like:
  • Savings - 20%
  • Tithe - 10%
  • Gas - 25%
  • Food - 25%
  • Misc. - 20%
Once you have the percentages figured out for your budget, it is important to keep track of your spending so that you do not go over what you have. I created a spreadsheet that allows me to monitor my money and calculate what I have left after every purchase. Here's what it looks like! 
 **Click here to print this spreadsheet**

Along with the spreadsheet, one way I avoid going over my budget is by using an envelope system. This means, I use cash! Every time I get a paycheck, I go to the bank and I get it in cash. Then I distribute the money based on the percentages into envelopes (one envelope per category). This allows me to just grab the cash out of the envelope every time a make a purchase until the envelope is empty, not allowing me to go over budget. Yes, using cash can be a hassle and sometimes scary caring it around all over the place, but if you only carry the money you will need for that day, then you won't be left carrying around as much money... and you'll be less tempted to spend your money because you will be more limited. 

Money is not necessarily fun to budget, but in the end, it is so worth it!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

How to make everyday a great day!

We all have those days where everything seems to go wrong. You wake up late, spill your coffee, only commercials are playing on your favorite radio stations, you get a speeding ticket, and your day just keeps on going downhill from there. It's just one of those days. BUT, you still have a chance to make it a great day. Here's how:

1. Be thankful. 
Thank God that you woke up today!! Praise Him for your life and dwell on all He has blessed you with. You can even get out a piece of paper every morning and list three things that you are thankful for. 

2. Put a smile on! 
Just like the song in the movie, Annie, says, "You're never fully dressed without a smile!" You would be surprised how much of a difference a simple smile makes! Try it!

3. Serve others. 
Wait... What? You're having a bad day and I'm telling you to serve other people? Yes. I am. As you bring joy to other people through serving them (with a selfLESS heart), you will find joy. Seeing how appreciative other people are through what you do for them can in turn bring you satisfaction. Besides all that, it gets your mind off your own struggles.

4. Trust
Trust that God is holding you and He has great plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares The Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" God loves you!!

5. Endure
James 1:12 tells us that, "A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." Being able to endure through tough and icky situations is a blessing!

Rather than wasting a day by dwelling on what has gone wrong, make it a great day! Remember that Jesus loves you and I love you too! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Amarillo Mission Trip

This post is a couple weeks late, but I really want to share about the mission trip I went on over spring break! I went with The Church on Rush Creek (Mira Lagos) to Amarillo to serve the community. Going into the mission trip, I kinda had an idea of what to expect since I have been on previous mission trips and lived in Mexico as a missionary, but what I didn't expect was what God did in my heart.

The first day we were in Amarillo, we went to a lady's house to help her clean out her backyard. As soon as we walked into the backyard, I saw a mess! There were piles of wood, rocks, and metal, trash scattered, random tools, kitchen supplies, decorations, etc. We didn't really know where to begin, but then we started to clean things up, organize, and throw away trash. While working, the lady came outside to talk to us and give us a little bit of guidance. As I started talking to her she opened up a little bit about her life. She told a couple of us that she hadn't been in her backyard in a long time. She then told us that most of the mess came from her son that used to live with her who had bipolar disorder. When he didn't like something in the house, he threw it in the yard. As she told us this story, I could see tears in her eyes. It hurt me to hear what she's had to go through. It reminded me of how fortunate I am. Not only for the material things that God has blessed me with, but also for the family that I have.

One of the other mornings in Amarillo, we went to a different lady's house that had burnt. The house was still standing with all of her belongings inside, but a lot of what she had was ruined by the fire. We cleared everything out of the house and then helped her organize between what was ruined and needed to be thrown away and what she could keep in her storage building that she had next to her house. She helped us the whole time! While she helped us, she told us that she had recently lost her father who lived with her before the fire. Not only did she lose a lot of her belongings, including her house, but she also lost her father. Even though she had lost a lot, she remained joyful and grateful for the things that she did have!

My favorite part of the trip was the afternoons! Everyday after lunch, we went to a low income apartment complex to hang out with the kids that lived there and share a Bible story with them. Everyday when we got there, the kids were already waiting for us. Some of us played basketball, some of us played on the playground, some of us played soccer, and some of us just sat and talked with the kids. Although it was simple, we could see in the kids that they were so happy just to have somebody loving on them. It was so obvious that they do not receive much love at home based on how quickly they became attached to us. It broke my heart to see how broken they were, especially after hearing some of their stories. Some of the students on the mission trip shared that seeing these kids really showed them how fortunate they are for the families that they have and that so often we take our parents for granted.

Not only did I have the opportunity to serve others and spread Christ's love on this trip, but God also humbled me. Towards the beginning of the trip, I sometimes let my selfish desires and mindset get in the way. I thought, "I'm really tired. I just want to do the easiest job," but as the week went on, God showed me that it wasn't about me and what I wanted, but it was about serving Him and doing what He desires for me. God wouldn't ask me to do anything that I couldn't handle. No matter how tired I was, with Christ, He can give me the energy and strength to do His work. This isn't something God showed me just for the mission trip, but I can apply this to my life at home, at school, at church, and everywhere I am. There are so many times that I am selfish and only want to do what I have planned for myself. But God has other plans. He wants me to always put others before myself and serve them. He wants me to use everything I've got for His glory. He wants me to follow Him and trust His will for my life.

I am so thankful that I was able to go serve in Amarillo. God is so good!

"Serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind,
for the Lord searches every heart 
and understands the intention of every thought."
1 Chronicles 28:9

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Life Change

On Sunday, March 2, 2014, I chose to take the step to proclaim my faith by being baptized. When I was five years old, I accepted Christ into my heart, and I was baptized; however, I didn't know exactly what I was doing. Ever since then, I had always loved Jesus and wanted Him to be a part of my life, but I didn't desire Him completely. In high school, I began to slowly start straying away from Him. I still believed in Christ, but I stopped relying on Him. I stopped focusing on Him. I stopped reading my Bible. I stopped going to church. I was lost. But God gave me a wake up call. My senior year of high school, I lost my best friend, Kayla, to suicide (I've written more about her in previous posts). I was in complete shock, but I felt this overwhelming sense of God, like He was telling me, "I am here, Haley. Trust in me. This is all a part of my plan. Lean on me." So, I listened. I trusted in Him. I remembered Jeremiah 29:11 that says, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" God had a plan. I hate that I lost my best friend. I think about her everyday. There are still days that I cry just thinking about her. But I know that God had a plan, even through such an awful situation. I have already seen part of his plan unfold in my life. I've learned that our time on earth is short. 2 Corinthians 10:31 says, "So,whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." We are placed on this earth for one reason, and that is to glorify God. Kayla lived a life that glorified God. Her time was short, but it was full. After her loss, I realized that I want to live a life like her. I want to live a life that shines Christ's. I want to live a life of serving and loving others. I want to live a life where Christ is my number one desire. I want to live a life where I put all of my hope and my trust in The Lord. I want to follow Him with my whole heart. I finally made that decision in December of 2012. My life is different now. I'm not perfect and I still sin every single day, but Christ is now the center of my life and my number one desire is to glorify Him in all that I do. After a year of contemplating whether I should be baptized again to proclaim this new step of faith, I finally decided that it was the right decision. I want to proclaim my faith and my trust in Jesus Christ to the world. I want people to celebrate this life change with me. I want fellow believers to help guide me and hold me accountable as I have made this new life change. I am so thankful that I have Christ by my side. I'm thankful that He has taught me to trust Him. I'm thankful that He is always here, even through the most difficult times. I'm thankful that I have Him in my heart!

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away,
and look, new things have come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

Thursday, February 13, 2014

God's Love is BIG!!!

God's love is big. God's love is so big! God's love is so big that he sent his son to die for you!! I don't think we will ever be able to comprehend how much God loves us. He loves us unconditionally. I mean, if you think about it, we are His creation. Of course He loves us! But we aren't perfect. We are sinners. There are times that we turn from Him. There are times that we don't obey Him. There are times that we dishonor Him. But guess what... He still loves us. Romans 5:8 says, "But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Wow! Just think about that for a minute. Can you imagine a love better than that? I sin every single day,yet God still loves me and offers me forgiveness through His Son. God's love for us is sacrificial. God's love for us is never failing. God's love for us is never ending. He loves us so much. He loves YOU!

I challenge you to spread God's love. 1 John 4:11 says, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." Don't let God's love for you stop with you. Spread it! God created us to glorify Him. One way we can do that is by spreading His love!

Don't forget... God's love is BIG! He loves YOU!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Having a Servant's Heart

One thing that God has really been showing me the past few weeks is to have a servant's heart. Serving others is so important. At DBU, if you received the Christian Leadership Scholarship (CLS), you must take the course for that scholarship, which I am currently taking. In this class, we learn about the importance of serving others. We have learned all of the positive outcomes that come with serving. Serving others not only brings joy to those around you, but it gives glory to God and can bring joy to your own life. From my personal experience, I am a much happier person when I am out serving others, rather than focusing on myself. Philippians 2:3-4 says, " Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (ESV). One technique that we were taught in the CLS class that really stood out to me was thinking of everyone as better than yourself. It is my goal to remind myself that every person I cross paths with or communicate with in some form or fashion is more important than me. When doing this, rather than thinking of how I can be satisfied, it will allow me to think about how the other person can be satisfied. I pray that I can shine Christ's light as I serve other people. I also pray that you too would be encouraged to serve someone else at least once this week. 

Here is a list of things I would like to do to serve other people:
1. Smile! It's simple, but I know that when I see a smile on other people's face, it brightens my day. Therefore, I would like to bless others in that same way!
2. Write a thank you note for the custodians that clean my dorm bathroom
3. Pay for a random person's meal
4. Surprise someone on my hall with candy
5. Help someone that is stressed
6. Bring my coworkers breakfast
7. Write my friends notes of encouragement
8. Clean the room for my roommate
9. Invite and bring someone to church with me
10. Love others, even those that are hard to love

Monday, November 18, 2013

In memory of Kayla Nicole Lodes

I miss her. I miss her smile. I miss her laugh. I miss her saying “Love you,” to everyone she came across. I miss how encouraging she always was. I miss all the joy she spread to others. I miss how she always found the positive in everything. I know that she would want all of us to find the joy in this situation. As much as I wish I could bring her back right now and just give her a huge hug and see that smile again, I am happy knowing that this is all part of God’s plan. She has made such an impact in this world. Because of Kayla, I have seen many lives changed. Many people have come to know the Lord through her. I can honestly say that because of her, I have grown so much in my faith. She set such a great example of what it meant to be a Christ follower. I can’t help but find joy and peace through her loss. This past year has been a roller coaster, but I have learned that God is always here, even when it seems like times could not get worse. Just this morning, I was in chapel at DBU and we sang a song called “Never Once”. As I was listening to it, I felt like it represented exactly what I have learned throughout this year. The words say “Scars and struggles on the way, but with joy our hearts can say, yes our hearts can say, Never once did we ever walk alone. Never once did You leave us on our own. You are faithful. God, You are faithful.” After hearing that song this morning, I thought, “Wow, God really is faithful.” God has held me tight in his arms and He is not letting me go. God has given me peace. God has shown me how to find joy. God has been my friend when I feel like nobody understands. And God can be the same for you. God is faithful. 

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39 ESV