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08 - How to Lose Your Debt and Save Your Life

Alistair Huong Joel Moutray


Is debt holding you back from fulfilling your life calling? In this interview, Alistair Huong from savingthecrumbs.com shares his own financial journey. He tackles issues on tithe, offering and the all-important question of debt. He shares practical advice for managing your finances as a Christian.


  • May 16, 2019
    4:38 AM
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Is debt holding you back from fulfilling your life calling. And you're listening to the very unsure podcast in today's episode I speak with budgeting blogger Allister wall who shares tips on how to budget save and manage money to God's glory. Thank you for joining the podcast great to be here we're talking about Christian finance today and you know finances are just something that affects everyone and in so many different areas of life why is finances important to the Christian and that's the fundamental question isn't it really it's been said I don't know exactly who said it but money isn't everything but everything takes money and so really we can't escape it and money is just part and parcel to every aspect of life and so we really have to grapple with how we're going to deal with this but for Christian it's even more of an issue because we're told that the love of money is the root of all evil and so in a Christian journey it's sort of unavoidable This is like that a spiritual battle that we know we're going to have to face and so if we're going to face it we better face it prepared now absolute is a very very very important and. Now the reason we want to have you in is because you have a blog which is saving the crumbs dot com That's right and you and your wife want to journey to with finances and different things like that just to get started off which is what I asked I was when I ask if you funny questions here you guys were extremely frugal and still are still out and. What you guys do with your wedding you have spent like $30000.00 right now which is like the average I think it is the U.S. national average about $30000.00 that was a couple years ago maybe more than that now but we actually spent only $3000.00 for our wedding $3000.00 yes we don't make ourselves a criteria for anyone else of course but yeah that's what we did that's also now I mean did you have to like literally walk down the aisle with like you know grasses you know flowers or I mean did you guys have a nice wedding while best wedding I've ever been to in fact you know it's funny because yeah I say that and people in visioning like oh you just had like a shotgun wedding at the courthouse right and then you just went out for vanity dinner No actually we had about 200 guests we had a real church we had real flowers. Dress real wedding dress you know food we had a full meal for people a reception afterwards now the 3000 does not include our honeymoon we actually spent more than that for the honeymoon but my wife really was the mastermind behind behind the wedding and how to keep the prices down like that I just went along for the ride and you know wrote the check but yeah somehow we did it. So you're really really into finances and you like bring frugal you and your wife have had a journey on saving the crimes dot com You guys have blogs and stories and all kinds of information to help young people reading and to learn about Christian finance right how did you get into this just a little summary of like why you why Christian finance and why do you even start posting about it yeah that's a good question how did we get started you know my wife and I were sort of weird like that where dinnertime conversation we're thinking you know what what do we talk about as a couple and we realize we really enjoy talking about money and not like you know getting rich type of thing even though we don't mind that either but just saving money and the things that really brought us together were you know for forays out into the thrift store or Craigslist bargains and things like that and we realized hey you know we'd like to remember some of these experiences and some of the things that we learned along the way things that we did that might actually be helpful in the future we were thinking really for our future children if nothing else and also for our own sake of remembering what happened and since you know you can start a website for close to nothing now we thought it would just post it see what people think maybe some people will like it if people shoot enough you know arrows at us or draw tomatoes we'll just you know we don't have to do it anymore it wasn't like this big plan to start a business or anything and well from there it got quite a response from people who resonated and were interested in it really I guess highlighted how unusual we were and how strange we think can and so we've just been so blessed to be would help people we have regular contact with lots of people who e-mail us write us read our blog Facebook whatever and I also do a fair amount of speaking now for seminars and I get to talk with people and. It's just such a blessing from our own experience we're able to help out. People like we said at the top it's such a common human experience to deal with money that I feel like it's become quite a ministry you'd label yourself and your wife as kind of weird and having to do things different. When you're trying to save money when trying to be frugal when you're trying to use your finances to help other people etc take sacrifice a famous Christian finance. Influencer Dave Ramsey says you got to live like no one else so that you can then live like no one else and get like no one else comment on that like what kind of sacrifices have you and your wife you did to like be for who I guess well I'll give you an exterior example this is one of things the extremes that we went to that I don't recommend anyone do because we don't even do that anymore but we actually. First winter after we moved into our our house 1st house that we bought we realized we were trying to save on the electric bill because we you know how to electric heat pump for heating the house and stuff so and we were working all day we would be out of the house all day so it would be on the way mow the he would be on we come home for a few hours in the evening they would go to bed so we're like why should we blast the heat to make it warm for the couple hours so we just kept the heat off it was like 50 degrees in the House $55.00 in the dead of winter and we would come home and we would put on ski pants in the house right so we would come home and put on our jackets and stuff and you know in the end if we tallied up how much we saved Yeah it might have been a couple 100 bucks over the winter but if it's not worth it but we would think of things like that that we would do and you know we would course correct and realize you know some things are just go on the bridge too far type of thing but every aspect of our lives now we really think through. How can we be most efficient with how we use our resources and we also ask the question is there a better way we don't just take the. What everybody else does as well that's the way it has to be we like to challenge the status quo a little bit and especially how how we live I listen to several years seminars and one of the phrases that really stood out to me was and that really impacted me in my own financial journey was the phrase that you said long term goals dictate short term spending that literally just blew my mind Oh I comment on that and also on the topic of a budget oh yeah you know are we do we have to keep track of every penny you know how does that go with daily spending and all that. Yeah that really is one of the fundamental principles that for me really changed my view of money too because I grew up like any other young person I got my 1st paycheck after my 1st job and I'm like oh what can I buy with this like shoes or you know toys cameras whatever it might be but the lightbulb moment is when I think about budgeting right now a days people realize oh I have to budget it's like I have to lose weight of to go on a diet it's like this painful punishment to go on to go on a budget and I think we have a misconception of what a budget really is a budget we think of now as something that is a punishment to tell us what we can't do handcuffs to say you shouldn't buy that you should spend it on that you should go there well it doesn't explain why. But a budget really should be the way we should think about a budget is a plan to get us where we want to go or a plan to help us accomplish what we want to do and that's where the where you're getting at with the long term thinking. Because the analogy there example is you know if I'm going on a vacation on a road trip. I'll say we're going on this road trip to go to the Grand Canyon because that's our destination that's our goal the National Park we never say the goal on this road trip is to not run out of gas because it's presupposed if I'm going to get there I'm not going to run out of gas and so when we think about the budget we're just saying oh my goal is to not spend more than I make That's just not running out of gas the point is What am I trying to accomplish to my life whether it's paying off debt buying a house paying for my kids to go through college or buying a new car or whatever it is that I need we need to start there and that's actually in harmony with Christ's Council to count the cost before you start building right if a man builds a tower if you don't count the cost you might run out of money and everyone's laughing at him it's the same principle I've got to think long term what is it them trying to accomplish you know projected numbers and it's not going to be perfect we're going to do our best and it's going to be estimates and stuff and then we figure back from that well how do I need to adjust my spending today so that I have enough left over to reach those goals and when we think about it that way the biggest benefit is now we have the answer to the question of why shouldn't I buy that why shouldn't I spend the money on this because I have the money right quote unquote I can afford it famous last words but. When we look at the dress or whatever it is that we want to want to buy and we realize hey if I don't go through with this purchase it will enable me to go on that vacation next year where I can afford that mission trip next summer or I can buy that car that I've been eating that much sooner it's a lot more motivating it becomes you know there's a reason there's a motive behind why we adjust our lifestyle so yeah I believe that is one of the bedrock principles one of the most revolutionary things to me to as far as thinking about money so a lot of the people listening here are young people young adults in high school college maybe a little bit after that and it's something that's on all everyone's mind is maybe one day I'll be married yeah and there also is the concept of being ready for marriage how does finance going to that some people say you have to have $10000.00 in the bank is there a certain number or is that just something that's showing really an underlying principle. Yeah that's a great question but to answer the $10000.00 question 1st I didn't have $10000.00 in the bank when I got married so I lose I guess. But my wife did so maybe I win but. As far as the question goes I I don't think the dollar amount is really the point even though sure the more you have saved up the more cushion you have to smooth out the rough patches that might come with adjustment in life but really I think the key here is is there a financial literacy is there a stability and is there the maturity that generally is revealed with someone's not just bank account balance but just do they know how to manage money can they hold down a job are they responsible do they know how to pay the bills and you know bring home the strip malls I guess. You know you look at the you look at a young person and the readiness for marriage really is can this person provide for a family because that's sort of the goal right of having a getting married and getting into this relationship so I really think that the key here is to not look merely at the dollar signs dollar amount but to investigate really is this person financially mature because I'll be frank particularly you know we're we're talking about G Y C and ministry focus and a lot of times a lot of us young men we get called into positions that don't pay much as a young person who want to serve the Lord and we may not make $10000.00 even in a whole year in fact I didn't when I got married you know so it was. It would be it would be unfair I think to those young men who are mature who have given their lives to the Lord but just because they've chosen a sacrificial path that we're going to hold that against them but the same time we need to hold their feet to the fire make sure that they are responsible and they're still able to make those good financial decisions. I know we talked about this in relation to guys you and I are you know we're both males and we think of that as the provider kind of a thing sure you have anything to say about young women who are considering being ready financially for marriage I think the principles apply just the same Ellen White has a council about you know every women should know how to harness a horse today might be you know changing the oil or junior flat tire or something like that might be more analogous I think the principle behind that is women should also be capable of taking care of you know the needs in the household and taking care of themselves and being responsible and all those kinds of things and women tend to be better than men at those things anyway and so yeah while I do believe you know men need to stand up and be responsible to be the breadwinner of the home and the house band as the name husband represents I think it's just as relevant for women to learn how to balance their checkbook and run a budget and you know all the rest pay the bills and things like let's let's ask the $1000000.00 question no pun intended OK Is debt bad Oh and if so like what's the guy like how do I know that is a big question isn't it and boy. The short answer is yes that is bad and how do I know that the Bible says that the borrower is servant which is better translated slave borrower is slave to the lender slavery is never a good thing especially one with a slave but when then in the speed across the Elmwood also says we ought to avoid debt like smallpox so it's like it's like this imagine if you were a slave that had smallpox that's bad very very bad it's not a state anyone wants to be in but I do want to mention this and that is. At the same time it's not a center right because it's sometimes cast in the light like if you have to borrow money it's like a moral sin but you have to repent in sackcloth and ashes for it's not a state that is ideal but it's not a sin to be sick it's not a sin to be enslaved but is just bad so you know there's this term good debt bad debt and that's where you know sometimes people different you know when and when it's appropriate up that you know I just don't see that distinction in the Bible where debt is good it's always slavery to stay the letter it's always analogous to smallpox So when is it acceptable I think is a better way to put it when is it maybe just maybe a smart debt and dumb debt maybe maybe I'm not sure I'd give it that either but. There is but to your point though there are times when debt is permissible and so your question is how do we know how do we know so there are really just 2 rules with a 3rd sort of thrown in there the rules Number one is never borrow money for something that only goes down in value. It's just math it's just being smart. You don't want to buy something that you're going to overpay because you're paying interest plus it goes down in value so you're losing on both ends of the deal and that's one of the surest ways of living losing money What's an example of that category a come back to then just a 2nd because a 2nd rule is just dovetailed and it's sort of this flip side of the same coin the 2nd rule is borrowing is acceptable only if what you're purchasing with the money will increase in value and eventually pay off the debt so don't borrow for something that only goes down in value but borrowing is acceptable if it can increase in value and eventually pay off what you borrowed so to your question of an example you know borrowing money to buy a new phone for example we all know that i Phones go down in price every year so if we're borrowing money we're paying interest and then a year later we've paid more than full price because of the interest cost on a phone that's worth less than full price so we've lost you know extra money. So that's that's something that goes down in value it doesn't pay itself off However if let's say it's a house on the other hand you're buying a house and most of the time there's definitely a strong potential for the value of the home to go up and so if the value of the home goes up it actually is permissible because in the end it actually earns money back and also in the form of the rent payment so you don't have to pay so student loans would also fall into a form of acceptable debt even though it is probably growing into a national crisis at least in the United States. But the idea is that an education increases the earning capacity and so the career that we can get with education will earn back the price of borrowing So yeah those are some of the guidelines Oh and the 3rd one I forgot to mention to throw in there is just remember to only borrow what you need it's not free money as young people many of us are going through college we're you know we're trying to do our budget where we're earning our 1st dollars right as a young person becoming an adult and we're like what I have to give 10 percent away it just kind of like a it doesn't make sense why would you live off a 90 percent when you have that you know sometimes it mentally and mathematical doesn't always add up sure what is about to say about tithing offering and how we can trust in God in that area and the blessings that are related that is a great question and it really drives at the root of personal finance for The Christian in the world the money that we earn we view as ours but from the Christian framework we are managers only of what belongs to God And so I like to think of it this way I'm the C.E.O. of my life the gods of the owner and so as the owner he ultimately has final control over everything and he is owed the profits that is generated through this enterprise and so the 10 percent is just like the dividends that we return on a systematic basis to our owner and you know what it simply represents that he owns 100 percent. That's the that's the difference between the Christian world view and how the world views it and when we think about think about it that way then it becomes a lot more clear why God says in Molokai that you have robbed me in ties and offerings if we don't return our ties and offerings God says you're robbing me well how can we be robbing him when it's our money that we earn as I know you didn't earn that I mean you did earn it but it still belongs to me because everything that you have I GAVE TO YOU So it's interesting. That you bring this up in the framework of tithes and offerings because the. In Malakai there robbery. God talks about robbery and it's not just ties he also talks about the offerings. And I is specially reserved for a specific purpose and as for the gospel ministry and you know there are lots of resources that delve into that I won't get into all the specifics there but as far as offerings go they're not optional either at least that's the how. I'm but in various places counts as a stewardship in other places is described as what we give as God has prospered us and without getting into all the specifics here. There are actually principles related to the offerings as well and so there's a 10 percent tie and then beyond that there are percentages of our income that can be given back as offerings and the main difference with offerings is that it is not restricted soley for the use of supporting the Gospel it can be for any support of the gospel work in other areas as well and I know I may not be explaining it with all the details but I know there are resources out there that flesh this out more from the church Thanks for sharing that I know that there's many resources even on your website save the crimes dot com. So I know we're talking about finances here we're talking about the goal of denying self so that we can take him our families spread the gospel give money back to God etc That doesn't come naturally to us and I don't think it came naturally to you there are definitely could you share with so the story in closing a story that would inspire and activate us activate me and activate the listener to say you know what I want to give Put God 1st in my finances and I want to I want to choose to trust him with this and I want to true is to become more aware and to educate and to learn more in this area Yeah well. I'll go right back to my master's program when I was a student and that was the year right after I got married and actually I have to start before we got married because the summer before we were on our way to the G.C. session and lanta. We stopped by Southern avenues University where I had a role to be in the master's program and when I showed up in the business school and rolled. Gentleman came bounding across the office shouting Hey Hey You You I know you and he said were you driving in a white Honda Accord on I 75 southbound yesterday and I'm like Who is this guy how do you know I've been spying on me well as it turns out he and his wife were driving on the same road and he looked over at us and he mentioned his wife you know those look like some fine Aves young people and I bet they're going to the G.C. session of the Atlanta and what gave it away I guess was my license plate cover the little Or the little frame I should say is said Loma Linda on it which is where I'm originally from and so he put 2 and 2 together and here I am sitting in his office and rolling to be in his master's program he was the dean of the School of Business and we walked to the office and we thought wow that was strange but is somehow felt like a divine appointment. And so we got married a few months later and then the next few months after that and January I was starting my master's program and we have made a commitment my wife and I that we wanted to use our influence in ministry and this master's degree was going to committed for God's work and so I didn't want to go into debt I wanted to be able to be free so that I can serve Him wherever it might be even if it's very low pain which generally is what we mean when we say work in ministry right and so there was one week into my program I was already in classes I was doing homework we had a nice friend who let us stay in the basement for free because we didn't know what we could afford where we could rent it was a rather stressful time newly married I felt like I was a failure as a husband I'm not providing for my wife I'm in school she has to look for a job and she's going to have to make the money to pay my way through we might have to borrow money there's all these doubts right going through my head and I apply for jobs all over the place and nothing really came came to be I was you know a hair's breath away from becoming a Wal-Mart greeter I mean I was willing to do it all anything right and then I got this email one line have you found a job and who was it it was my dean of the School of Business and he says and of course I wrote him back right away and he said Come to my office right now so I thought great I don't do my homework right now I need to go see this guy so I went to his office last story short he had a brand new graduate assistantship program that was opening up basically for his office working for him and I was the 1st name became the mine. And in that moment I realized oh well the reason why I came to mind was because I'm the guy that Scott stuck in his memory as you know the avenues guy driving to G.C. in on I 75 south and I thought wow praise the Lord and I accepted the job and it was a job that covered my entire graduate school tuition I had to work you know I had to extend my program out to work on all my breaks and you know there was some sacrifices involved but boy I was praising the Lord because he honor my commitment I my wife and I we determined that we wanted to serve Him God and no man can serve 2 masters and we realize if we were you know indebted to the lender we're going to have split allegiances and we're going have a hard time working for him and so he honored that and of course we did our part of the bargain we you know we scrimped and saved and we lived in a small basement apartment we rented the cheapest thing we could and we manage our money in such a way that we didn't have to borrow money to get their education and the now you know without education I I'm trying my best to fulfill my end of the bargain I'm still in ministry work and because of some of those sacrifices and the overall philosophy of money and the budgeting decisions that we've made we've been able to continue working in a relatively low paying type of position while not really being. I would say for the worse you know we're still able to live a very comfortable life a blessed life we have a daughter now and we own our home and all of those kind of things so you know I think that the lesson for the young people who might be listening to this is that. During our loaves and fishes we might not have the benefits or the privileges that some other people might have but God can bless what we give them and as long as we're faithful as always we place them 1st as long as we are robbing him in our Tarzan offerings and following the principles and all the rest. He's able to do things for us that we can't do for ourselves but of we're not in a position where we are. Committed and and sacrificial and and surrender to His Will we don't really give him that kind of permission to act much so I just want to curse young people out there who can do it for you too. Awesome appreciate it. Thanks for listening don't forget to subscribe and share this episode with your friends to learn more check us out at learning share podcast dot com.


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