Tag Archive | "habits"

Eat food in your pantry, you’ll save money. Really.

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Eat food in your pantry, you’ll save money. Really.

My wife and I recently made some changes to our budget and how we handle cash versus credit. The result is a stricter, more disciplined cash management system. As a result, we are having to rethink how we approach certain budgeted areas such as groceries.

As is probably the case with many of you, groceries are one of the largest bills we have. It’s amazing how many resources are consumed in sustaining the life of very tiny people.

I think we’ve all read articles talking about how we should make a shopping list before going to the store. That way, you avoid impulse purchasing or making several trips during the week. We almost always make a list. And yet, we still have what I’m going to call “unintentional food storage.” You know what I’m talking about. There is that can of tuna or box of pasta in your pantry that has been in there for ages. We never consume the food since it usually requires more ingredients which we don’t have on hand to make a meal.

Let me give you an example using that can of tuna. The reason my family usually doesn’t eat the tuna is because we often don’t have bread. My wife doesn’t like me eating a lot of breads (something about a low carb diet that I’m supposed to be on). But we have the tuna, some mix-ins like celery, nuts, and apples for flavor, and Vegenaise (I don’t like Mayo and don’t get me started on Miracle Whip). So all we need is bread and we’d have a sandwich. But go figure, we bought roast beef, provolone, and bread tonight so that we can make sandwiches. Now granted, I prefer roast beef over tuna. But, we could have saved money, or at least postponed the purchase until the next paycheck, had we just bought bread.

The point that I’m trying to make is that when planning a trip to the grocery store, dive into your unintentional food storage and see what you can use. One thing that you might try is eating through your freezer or pantry before making any large trips to the store. Make a list of only ingredients that are needed to finish off the half-meals already in your pantry. We recently tried this tip and found that we were able to spend much less money while we paid off some bills.

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Hourly Luis saved the company almost $1 million

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Hourly Luis saved the company almost $1 million

Man with circuit boardSeveral months ago, the CEO of the company I work for sent out an email chastising many of the individuals in the company. Our current product had several design flaws that were creating problems for our customers and sales efforts. One of the issues was the mainboard in our device. An unknown engineering flaw relegated approximately $880,000 worth of inventory to shelves marked unusable. Desiring to move forward and forget the existing problems, many individuals internally were lobbying to design a completely new product. Our CEO’s rebuke effectively stated, “We need to stop looking for the next new and sexy thing and focus on fixing the existing problems.”

An Unlikely Champion

The overall tone of the email was frustration and I recall writing it off. In fact, most of us did write it off. However, the most unlikely of employees took that one line as a  call to action – a mantra really. Luis immigrated from Peru several years ago. Having earned a degree in engineering in Lima, Luis left behind him a successful company. Working as an hourly employee back in our repair shop, Luis approached his manager and asked what our CEO meant in his email. Our manager outlined several of the problems that our product was facing. A few days later, Luis asked his manager if he could please start a project aimed to recover the $880,000 worth of defective inventory. He was given permission.

While Luis worked, several of the high paid, American educated engineers poked fun at Luis’ efforts and repeatedly commented that there wasn’t a possible fix. Lucky for Luis, his English is pretty broken and I don’t think he understood the criticism.

Luis implemented a well designed, step-by-step approach to isolating the problem areas on the mainboard. He then analyzed later versions of the board that did not exhibit the same problems. Within just a few weeks, shy and quiet Luis produced the necessary fixes salvaging every single board! With an upgrade costing the company only a few dollars per board, hourly Luis saved the company almost $1 million. The salvaged inventory is now invaluable since it has already been paid for and can be sold in future devices that would have required purchasing new boards.

His Humble Report

In our mid-year review, Luis’ manager gave him ten minutes to explain to all of the department heads (including the doubting engineers) what he had done. Luis’ professionalism was simply astounding and earned him at least my greatest respects. Luis had spent time after hours preparing not only two slideshows outlining the problem, his process, and the solution, but Luis wrote a witty and well structured dialogue (even though he kept his head and voice low while presenting) and called our products a family. He described the need to help an ill member of the family and his determination to follow the counsel of our CEO. Previous to this presentation, none of us knew what had motivated Luis’ efforts.

The Fred…er, Luis Factor

Our mid-year review lasted two days and one evacuation due to a natural gas leak (the gas company 100 feet from our building told us it would be an hour before they could get to us?!). Out of countless presentations, numbers, analysis, strategic plans, and opinions, nothing struck me as hard as Luis’ simple act of championing a cause. I was immediately reminded of “The Fred Factor” authored by Mark Sanborn. Mark stated that our mission should be to:

“…continually create new value for those you live and work with through dedication, passion and creativity.”

The Fred in Mark’s book was a postal carrier dedicated to a sincere relationship with the individuals on his route. Luis is an hourly repair technician dedicated to finding solutions through creativity. Also, when we all shrugged off our CEO’s email as an emotional rant, Luis saw an opportunity to move the company forward. Imagine a world full of people like Fred and Luis. People who care about building relationships and working hard to achieve common goals. Imagine an entire company, charity, church group, or family full of people like that. And dare I say it…imagine a government full of people who aren’t politicians but relationship oriented champions of change dedicated to the common good and not personal agendas (and I’m talking to both parties). I’d like to live in that world.

Know any Luises yourself?

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Two Financial Principles that Every Person Should Practice

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Two Financial Principles that Every Person Should Practice

Steven R. Covey taught that we should focus on living a principle centered life. As we align our actions and purpose with correct principles, we set a firm foundation for success and happiness.

House made of moneySo what principles will help guide you through the financial jungle that affects our daily lives? Although the optimal number of principles that will best help you may vary, you should at least include two longstanding tenets of both religion and law.

The first principle is Stewardship. Whether through good fortune or the sweat of your own brow, you have a certain amount of financial assets. Your assets may include automobiles, money in the bank, investment accounts, real estate, or insurance policies, to name a few. No matter the amount of financial assets or the source (assuming legal means of course), you have the obligation to oversee your assets with responsibility. Considering your assets as the opportunity to act responsibly is acting as a good steward. The use of stewards is millennia old. Kings would place a steward over sections of their land and the corresponding subjects. Each steward held the responsibility to wisely use the resources over which he presided.

In today’s world, we are not assigned stewardships via a kingship, but by the very nature of having financial assets. Let me give you several examples.

Let’s say that I make $65,000 each year. At some point, I plan to retire and spend time with my wife vacationing. In order to fund our vacations, I need a certain amount of money to pay our bills and travel expenses. I therefore have the responsibility to save an adequate percentage, let’s say 20%, of my income each year in order to pay for my retirement. This may seem like good financial planning but it is also acting as a good steward. We must see ourselves as being responsible for preparing for future events and not needing to rely on someone else for support due to our poor decisions.

Now, let’s take this scenario a step further. My wife and I decide to have two children. As we raise our children, it will be tempting at many times to either indulge ourselves or indulge our children with material goods. If I am still making $65,000, then I have a finite amount of resources available for our indulgences. Using a credit card or loans to buy now that which I hope to pay for later is acting as a poor steward. If I cannot make my financial obligations, then I lack self-discipline – an important attribute of a good steward. This is not to imply that we can’t own goods. We simply have the responsibility to financially plan for purchases and not place a financial burden on ourselves or anyone else.

One last example. Throughout my family’s life, we notice that many people throughout the world are less fortunate than us. My seemingly average $65,000 suddenly doesn’t seem so average. In fact, it is within my power to sacrifice part of my lifestyle in order to increase the standard of living for another person. Therefore, we decide to allocate 10% of all our gross earnings to donate to charity or other praiseworthy endeavors. To use my assets to elevate others is to be a good steward.

In order to make this important paradigm shift, I have to fundamentally believe that the assets I have are not mine, but rather, have been loaned to me for a time and I have to use them wisely. This is why I always tell my wife, “I’m glad I don’t have billions of dollars. I don’t want to have to be responsible for appropriately handling all that money.” Most would probably disagree with me.

The second fundamental principle in building a secure financial house is Accountability. Under the premise that I am a steward over assets that I have been allowed to use for a time, I must answer to someone at some future moment. If you are a God fearing individual, then you may believe that all things are created by God and are therefore His. You will then have to answer before Him for how you handled the assets He loaned you during life. If you are not a God fearing individual, then you are a temporary being on this earth and share in the obligation to responsibly use its resources. Therefore, you will have to answer to society and your fellowman for how you handled the assets afforded you during your life. Did you prepare adequately for future financial events? Did you overextend yourself and require outside assistance? Were you generous with others and give back on a regular basis? How you answer those questions might give you some insight into what type of steward you are and how you would be judged today if held accountable for your decisions.

As I stated at the beginning, there are many principles that if practiced consistently will lead you to financial success. Among your governing principles should be the understanding that you are Steward over loaned goods and you will one day be held Accountable for the decisions that you make. Once you start making decisions around those two principles, you will find yourself seeing money as a privileged tool that enables success and freedom instead of a right that can be squandered.

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