We have been trying to really focus on two things this year, 1) Paying down debt and 2) our giving of time and money to charity and to church and thus far, we haven’t done that bad, I don’t think. But what has really come out of the giving, is how great it feels to give to others.

Paying down debt – If we stay on track, we will have 3 cards paid off in 10 months and that will put us 1/3rd of the way to our goal. BUT and what is even more important than that, we will be able to start really putting a lot more towards down and finish up these credit cards a lot faster. In theory, we should be able to knock out all of our debt in less than 2 years. We have cut cable and that is saving us roughly $150 a month and then we have done a few other little things, like the Dollar Shave Club, we have started doing even more shopping at Aldi for produce and basic items and we are buying our meat in bulk from Wegmans, to name a few. But these savings should really start to add up and I was asked this week if I missed cable at all and I realized that I hadn’t thought about it, so no.

Giving – Giving to others is very important to both my wife and myself. We were both raised that it is better to give to others than to receive. So, in quickly looking over our finances, I realized that we are on track by the end of May to have already surpassed our giving totals for all of 2014. We have already committed $1,000 in extra giving, which does not factor into our giving to local charities and also to church.  And mind you, this is while we are paying down debt. But what is great about giving is that we are showing the boys that it is better to give to others, especially those that are less fortunate.

So far for our family goals, we are on schedule and actually ahead of schedule for our giving.

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If you don’t know who Adreian Payne is, then you are missing an AMAZING story. Here is a college kid, with a lot of potential and an even bigger heart.

Just take a moment and you’ll realize that in life, Adreian Payne isn’t just a talented basketball player, he is a good person that that is changing the life of this little girl.

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It is that time again, the dreaded Tax Season. I really don’t know, other than some CPAs that enjoy tax season. For most, they just try to do what is right and pay what they owe. Some like to try to get as big of a return back as possible, but for me I like to break even.

So with that, you have less than 1 month before taxes are due. Plan ahead, if you are doing your taxes yourself, see what changes have been made to the tax codes. If you are like me and can’t be bothered or even comprehend the tax codes, pay a good CPA, in the end it is worth the money.

I’ve been in constant contact with my CPA for the past several months, ensuring that we had everything together, but more importantly, I’ve really focused for the last year on giving more. I really want to plan on giving more and more each year. My family has been incredibly blessed and there are a lot of suffering families out there, so if we can give to the Food Bank, to a local charity that the money will be given to help others, then that is what I want to do. So for 2014, I’ve increased our giving by $100 in our monthly budget, this does not include the $40 a month that I give through automatic withdraw in my paycheck bi-weekly.

As we pay down debt and move closer to those magic words of being DEBT FREE, we will increase our giving. Because there is no greater feeling, than helping someone else.

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Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Matthew 19:21

I was reminded this week of this Bible verse and it really hit me out of the blue.  This past Wednesday morning in our weekly office meeting it was discussed our normal holiday tradition of adopting a community family. As the specifics of the family were read aloud, i.e. ages and what they wanted, I kept thinking about all the things that I have and how much I take for granted, especially when the father of the family was asking for a used coat, because it was getting ready to turn colder. And as the office quietly discussed what everyone wanted to do, this verse popped into my head and said that I would go this weekend and purchase enough canned goods, pasta, etc to last them several weeks. Sure, there are others that could have done it, there are others that do not have children that have more expendable income than we do, but I can’t take these things with me when I die.  And there is just something magical about giving to others.

“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ”
Acts 3:6

My job as a father is to set an example for my boys and if I can do that, then that is worth more than anything in this world.  So I recounted this story to my mother yesterday on the phone on my commute home and the other end of the phone was really quiet and I heard my mother sniffle and she just said that she was proud of me. My mother has taught school for 45 years and she told me how she had often purchased coats for some of her students or shoes for students and that they would just happen to end up on their desk and would ever know where they came from.

My mother showed me that giving to others, was the greatest gift that you could give and it meant even more, if it was done without recognition.  So today, I ask, what are you doing to help others in need? I can skip Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts this week and pay for a lot of canned good items for a family in need and what is really more important, another cup of coffee or providing a meal for a hungry family?  What is holding you back from giving to others? And it doesn’t have to be a lot, $1.00 can buy 2 canned goods, but it is something that I encourage everyone to start doing more spontaneous giving.

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Now that the first round of Christmas has come and gone (my parents are divorced, so we get 3 Christmas’s), we have already put the new toys out for the boys and have started taking some of the ones that they do not play with anymore and gotten ready for Goodwill. Yes, it is a good tax write off, but it is more importantly, a chance to help a child that might be a little less fortunate to get some good toys at a reasonable price.

I really want to raise the boys that as they get new toys, that they will take their old toys and give them to someone else. I want them to start at an early age to be humble. To understand how fortunate they are and how not all kids are that fortunate.
So, as we prepare for Rounds 2 and 3 of Christmas this week, there will be a lot of little boys and girls in our area that will be able to benefit from my kids toys. And as the boys grow up, they will go with me as we take the toys to Goodwill, so that they can get an idea of what giving back is really all about.

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We are just a few days away from Thanksgiving and the start of Christmas. But as we get into the crazy times of the holidays, I wonder, what are you giving to others? And I don’t mean toys and Starbucks giftcards (always a nice gift by the way), but are you giving of your time this year? Are you giving to charities?

Let’s be honest for a moment, our economy is not doing well.  That is just a basic and simple fact and who suffers from that? Yes, those that have lost their jobs, but so does the church, charities, etc. So, this year, my family is doing something different. I have finally hit my point of being frustrated with the Christmas season and all of the giving to give. Not this year. This year, we are giving to others. We are buying gifts for 4 families this year from the Angel tree at church. We are giving to the Ronald McDonald House, the one that my niece stayed at for a week and they supported my sister and brother in law for that week and helped them get through a time of uncertainty. We are giving to St. Jude, because today, we have two wonderful and healthy little boys and if there is ever a problem with them, I’m packing up and taking them there.

So what are you giving this year? Are you giving your family crappy gifts that are either given to someone else or worse, thrown away? This year, I challenge you to do something different. Step outside of your comfort zone and give to someone else in need. If you have been blessed this past year with a job and food on your table and a roof over your head, then help someone that has not been so lucky.

Here is the St. Jude’s video, I defy you to watch it without getting a little teary eyed. Giving is a wonderful thing, and can give more sanctification than giving a family member a tie. So, give. Give because you can and you want to.

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