If you do not want to debt to buy your summer wardrobe, how are you going to look fabulous? Where will the bathing suit come from if last year’s is a mess? Where are the shorts you need, the t-shirts, the halter dresses? Lots of stores have them, and the prices are reasonable, unless you are trying to get your money in order and have NO clothes funds.

Don’t gag when I say this, but your best friend this summer will be thrift stores. From Value Village, the more expensive store, to the Salvation Army, there will be clothes that fit you, and hardly worn at all if you shop carefully.  Does  this give you the willies? Other people’s clothes on adorable you?  Well, it’s just for this year.  Once you get into the swing of saving it forward, you won’t be doing this again. In fact, you’ll be donating to those stores to return the favour.

Where do you get the funds for fun summer outfits when your budget is tight? You take a plain white letter envelope, and for each check that comes into the house, you take a set amount of money from it or a set percent and put it, in cash,  into that envelope.  It might be 50 cents or $25, or 2%, but it will start to add up. 

While you are saving, make a list of the clothes you need and want.  Do not forget about the clothes you want. For example, if you have a special event coming up this summer, make sure you consider the whole outfit. The list is a promise to yourself, and a boundary around your spending.  

When you have saved a reasonable amount, by  your definition, bring your cash envelope with you, and your list, but before you go into the thrift store, say this prayer: God, please guide and protect me as I shop in this store.

Now you are ready to enjoy yourself.




Debt payment is one part of your life.  It does not drive it.  You are in the driver’s seat because guess what? You have the money.  No one can make you give them money you do not have, or force you to pay money you do not wish to pay. Unless they take you to court.  And even then, the judge will check over your income and other expenses, and not make you pay more than you can afford. 

But, your debt information needs to be clear and easy to find. Hence, we come to the Debt Binder.  Lots of creditors will try to make you say or do what you do  not want to say or do; also, some creditors will tell you they did not say what they did say.  Hence, the Debt Binder. For low tech use, this is simply a 3-ring binder with three-hole punched paper.  Also, section dividers.  Yes, you are back in dreaded school. Stop chewing gum.

If you are high tech, there are programs which help you divide up your debts into sections and where you track what you promised to pay and what creditors promised they’d do. Since the simple method transfers to the high tech, and is simple,  I suggest you start here. Then, if you want to go techie, use your paper info to set it up. Less frustration.

Start by creating Section 1, Debt Summary, a page(s)  which lists of all your debts and their details.  That info would be  the name and address of the creditor, the total amount of the debt you both agree is yours*, the interest rate they are charging, the payment date they expect, and the amount of the payment you have decided you can afford.  Note, that is not the amount they want, hardly ever.  But, as part of your balanced Spending Plan, it is the amount you can afford.  If you pay it on time, month after month, you will give them the confidence that they will get back all their loan, in time. They’ll calm down.

Back to the binder.  After you have a complete page(s) of the debts you owe, begin Section 2, Individual Creditors. Create a sheet for each On Page 1, state the name of creditor, the contact person you talked to, the date, and a summary of what was agreed upon, and the date promised to complete the action. Put the creditor sheets in alphabetical order for easy access.

 On Page 2 of your individual creditor sheets, put the details of the debt and a running balance.  You list the total debt amount, the payments you’ve made, the date you pay, how you paid, like check or e transfer, etc, and a descending balance where you subtract what you just paid. Then watch the total debt slowly disappear. How lovely is that! 

Do not throw out those sheets once you’ve paid off the debt.  Section 3, Retired Debts., is a summary list of all debts which have been paid off in full. Create one summary sheet to which you list each debt retired and the date it was finished. You can even subtract that amount from your overall debt total, and watch that thing melt away.  And you can also keep the individual creditor sheets of debts retired in this section, in alphabetical order. This section will be all the encouragement you need to keep on keeping on.

Eventually, you will have no debts owing. And because you have not created any new unsecured debts, with the help of God, you will be debt-free, no kidding.  In the meantime, while you repay debt, you will also enjoy your life, and the reduced stress of having a balanced Spending Plan which  is funding debt retirement in balance with all the other needs and wants in your life. Debt repayment may be slower than everyone would like, but soon, you will be out of debt, and you will not have felt deprived during the process.  That is God at work, honey. 

God, please help me to organize my debt binder making debt repayment records easy to find and easy to understand, and a happy record of freedom from bondage. Yay! Thanks.  

.*You do know how to negotiate your debts to reduce them, don’t you?  Honey!  it can be done, will be done and must be done to be fair to you, and your creditors.  Read the post on Negotiating Your Debts for All Around Fairness. 




Now that the holiday bills are coming in on top of regular bills, do not despair.   While money isn’t love, it sure feels like it during holiday seasons.  Hence, there are bigger than normal credit card bills, among other manifestations of overindulgence. We don’t have to talk about the scale right now. However, this is not the time to beat yourself up.

If you have been following this blog, you have read the article on Spending Plans.  If you have not  read it, take a breath, get a cup of calming liquid, maybe give yourself a quick smile in a mirror, and read it.  Because, debt repayment is simply a part of your budget. It is not the driver, nor is it the neglected child.  It is simply a part, one part, of a balanced Spending Plan.  And a balanced Speeding Plan  covers your needs and your wants. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Your wants include your dreams, or goals. Until you have set up  a money system which acknowledges your dreams, real dreams, even forgotten dreams, you will not have a satisfying financial life, and you will continue to go deeper in debt.

If you can get a copy of my book, Live Well Within Your Means, and I have libraries stocking it now, read the chapter called Fund Your Dreams.  By the way, if your library doesn’t have it, ask them to order a copy, then you can read it for free.   The chapter on  your Dreams is not a fantasy, and it is not kidding.  Dreams are the core of  your financial health and prosperity.

Now, you may say that you don’t have a dollar to spend on such nonsense.  Actually, that’s all you need.  One dollar, or even ten cents.  Acknowledge that dream.  Start an envelope with the name of the  Dream printed on it, and put a small amount of money into it every pay, or from every check you get.  When you get a windfall,  an unexpected amount of money like a rebate,  put at least a third of that into the Dream envelopes. Oh yes, you can have more than one dream envelope.

Now, instead of the the tale wagging the dog, that is, money determining how you can live your life, the dog, or your dreams, are making the rules.


1.Find  1-10 envelopes.

2. Write the name of each dream on the outside. If you’ve forgotten your dreams, use ones you wanted as a kid.  Fireman, ballerina,  or astronaut anyone? Trip down the Nile? A farm?

3. Write the amount of money you will deposit on each envelope.

4. Seed each dream with that amount of money today, now.

5. When windfalls of money come in, tax refunds, etc, deposit one-third of it in cash divided  between the dreams.

6. Oh, and do not debt today.  No digging the hole deeper.

7. Pat yourself on the back.  Your real holy day is starting now.

God, please guide and protect me as I set up a Dream Envelopes Saving System.





Backwards Goal Setting


1.      Major Goal

2.      Date To Complete

3.      Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Major Goal

4.      Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Above Goal

5.      Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Above Goal

6.      Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Above Goal

7.      Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Above Goal

8.      Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Above Goal

9.      Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Above Goal

10.  Date & Goal To Accomplish  Before Getting To Above Goal

11.  Date To Accomplish: this week





*      Higher Guidance, please guide me to right thinking about who to invite into our home, and give me the courage to do it.

*      Higher Guidance, please give me the courage to negotiate with this service provider, and please give me the words.

*      Higher Guidance, please give me courage, protect me, and give me the words to negotiate the best possible arrangement for all concerned with this creditor.


*      Higher Guidance, please filter my thoughts, and help me feel gratitude for what I have today. 


*      Higher Guidance, please help me  take loving care of my body with the exercise best for me.

*      Higher Guidance, I want to live in a safe, lovely  and healthy place within my means, and I know this is Your will for me. Please guide me.


*      Higher Guidance, bring me a feeling of peace as I record comfortable amounts of money in my categories.

*      Higher Guidance, as You know, I’m worried about my money situation and scared sometimes. What would You have me do? Please guide me to bring about the best possible outcome.

*      Higher Guidance, please bring me wonderful work where I do wonderful service in a wonderful environment for wonderful pay.



*      Higher Guidance, I’ve had a terrible day. I feel bad. Anyone going through the same thing would feel as I do. But, please, transform these negative feelings into peace of mind.

*      Higher Guidance, relieve me of the  habit  of self sabotage, and restore me to the hopeful, healthy, and abundant life You want for me. 

*      Higher Guidance, we ask for Your help in making these decisions for the wedding of xxx. Relieve us of the burdens of our egos and perfectionism. Help us to focus on the greater good of the families involved. Help us to do the work, but leave the outcome to You.

*      Higher Guidance, please transform these unpleasant feelings into peace of mind.  And  give me the courage to take action.



*      Higher Guidance, please guide and protect me as I shop on this site, or in this store or mall.

*      Higher Guidance, help me find the perfect gift for So and So that fits within my Spending Plan.


Black September is Coming!

It’s August, now, but you know what’s around the corner: Black September.  Remember all the fun you had last year around school start up?  Yes, indeed.  Wasn’t it a giggle to write checks faster than a speeding bullet for gym outfits, school supplies, clothes that fit, hockey season, ballet classes, piano lessons, karate, after-school childcare.  Tra la la, what a lark.  More like a vulture. 

      I don’t say kids need all that stuff each year. They say that, you say that, but I don’t.  Because, realistically, how much money do you have available for September start up? 

Let’s take a tally: gym outfit–$40 per kid

School supplies, sans new backpack: $50 per kid

with new backpack: $80 per kid. Ouch, this is hurting already.

Sports/classes sign ups: $130? $250? per kid

Scouts, Guides: $35 per kid

Where are we?  We’re up to $250-400 depending on your choices.  And that’s per child.

              How can you put aside that much money in the next 4-6 weeks?  Bite the bullet and get envelopes. 

The Envelope System

Using two to three regular envelopes, write the name of the savings category on the outside of the envelope, one for each: for example, School Fees, Recreation, After School Care.

      On the outside, still, write the total amount you need to save for all the kids. For School Fees, If you have two kids, you’ll need $80 for gym fees, and $160 for school supplies including backpacks. Total: $240.  Sigh.

     Next envelope: Recreation: do the same thing.  Don’t faint. It’s reality, but you can cope.  Say this mantra: Higher Guidance, please guide and protect me in my September spending. Say this from morning to night if you have to, all in a good cause: keeping your family  appropriately entertained, clean and safe in balance with other family needs and wants.

     What is the ceiling you are willing to spend, and what is the reality of fees you have to spend?  Say you just can’t afford the piano lessons, given you have so many other expenses at this time of year.  Why not delay those for a few months? Start them next January.  You don’t want to overload the kid with activities anyway.  The Hurried Child  by David Elkind is a great book which talks about  your child not having more than, are you ready, 6 hours of extra activity, including religious school, a week outside of school.  Can you whittle their lives to that? Yet, it’s healthier for the child, and for your budget. 

Oh, and just how will this money magically get into he envelopes?  Well, it’s the same old, same old: save  a bit from every paycheck between now and the expense.  Any windfalls of money you get in the meantime can be used, partly, to fund the Black September funds.  And buck up, eventually they grow up, finish school, and start their own families.  Think of what good role modelling you’re doing for them now, not going overboard on too many activities, or overspending in one part of life to the detriment of others.

Now breathe.  It’s still only August. 





10 Ways to Avoid Student Loans


Many ways to avoid educational debt do not involve being a scholarship student.  People of average intelligence can also go through school debt-free. Yes, they can. It may take patience; however, at the end of the day, when you’ve earned the degree, there will be no debt payments.

             These tips apply whether you are the student, or you are funding your child.


1.      Work first and save up.  Arrange to work for a year and save enough money to pay for what you have not been able to save.

2.      Night classes. You can take night classes  and work during the day. Sometimes, people are better students when they are older, making more mature decisions about doing the schoolwork, or choosing the courses they want.  Since time is on your side once high school is over, you can slow things down and pay as you go. And if you are lucky enough to work for a company which  encourages continuing education,  they often pay all or part of the tuition.  It may take a while, but as a young man I knew said,” I’m starting  medical school late, and won’t be finished until I’m 40.  But, I’ll be 40 anyway!”

3.      Part time. You can go to school part-time and work.  There is no rush to complete school.  Any numbers of students are mature students, ages 25-65, so no one will be out-of-place if they take a little longer to finish school.

4.      University Employment. If you or your kid gets a job at a local university, after a certain tenure of employment, employees can attend tuition-free or at reduced tuition. Think ahead.

5.      Co-op Programs. Some universities, in some of their programs, arrange for students to work as part of their coursework, and earn money for it. The University of Waterloo in Ontario has the biggest co-op program in the country. Students can earn $30,000 – $75,000 by graduation. They work 4 to 6 co-op work terms, gaining 16 months to two years of work experience, and job placement is about 93 %.

6.      Scholarships and Grants: Scholarships. Apply for every scholarship under the sun.  If your child has any learning disabilities, play that card now.  If your family has undergone any crises, financial or otherwise, see what you can do to find support from the government or the schools themselves. If your company helps with education expenses, tap them. 

7.      Bursaries. Apply for bursaries, which require proof of low income, although not academic standing.  You do not have to repay this money.  If you want grants or bursaries, you would be wise to apply and be approved for OSAP.  Since you do not have to repay grants or bursaries, you want to get them if you can.  But, do not spend the loan money they give you. In fact, repay it quickly.  It’s debt, plain and simple. And hard and long to pay back.

8.      Work-Study programs. Work-study requires some proof, often OSAP qualification, showing you don’t have much money. Then the school will find you an on-campus job at which you work between classes.  The best place to work on campus is usually the library because it pays the highest, and has a union, although there are many on-campus jobs. They schedule the hours around the student’s class times, and often have an upward limit of 15 hours a week so the student has time to study.  Though they may pay only minimum wage, it is a relatively painless way for you or your child to earn money to help fund the tuition.

9.      Go Local. You can also stipulate your child will not go out-of-town to school.  Even if their friends are going out-of-town,  if education is uppermost in everyone’s mind, there are local universities or even those where commuting of an hour or so each way  is possible. It will save about $4,000 – 6,000 a year in campus rent and living expenses. That’s a year’s tuition. While there is the loss of   independence, students who live at home often do better scholastically their first year since there are no new distractions. Keep online education in mind, too.  Almost all institutions are  setting up courses off campus.  

10.  Reconsider Higher Education: Is a university or college education so vital?  Have we let snobbism skew our view of the real world?  If your kids are good with their hands at all, consider apprenticeship programs where students learn on the job and earn money while they learn.  Have you checked out how much electricians make?  These are usually smart people, too.  Plumbers make a good living, as do heating and air conditioning technicians.  If your child is not great at academics, why force a square peg into a round hole? 

Sure, become a doctor, an engineer, or a historian, but don’t become a debt-ridden new grad.