Thursday, February 26, 2009

Importance of Tithing

Let me start out here, by sharing that tithe is a topic I have been studying and learning about recently. While I have given to the church throughout my entire life, I have never been taught the basics about tithing.

Lately, it has struck me that sex and money within the church, are an equal to religion and politics in the work place. Religion and politics are the two topics most people refrain from talking about at work because of the controversy surrounding them, however these are two very important topics to discuss.

The same is true for sex and money. Many churches tend to skirt these issues because it brings up topics that many dont like to hear. Sex, a huge topic, brings with it abstinence, homosexuality, and can lead into topics like divorce. Money, well thats just a topic everyone seems to get uptight about.

Money is a foundational topic in the Christian faith. If we look at tithing in the Old Testament, God commanded His people to tithe, whether you call it a tax or not, I believe it is something we should all be following.

Tithe is 10%, no more, no less. If you are not returning 10% of your total gross income, you are not tithing, you are giving. Confused? Tithe belongs to God, and so it never really belongs to us, which is where we get the phrase "robbing God".

Tithe is a starting point for your giving, not the ending point. We are called to return to God His portion of our income, and anything above and beyond that if a freewill offering (something that your heart has lead you to give). Tithe teaches us the joy in giving, something many Americans dont have. Studies have shown that the more money we accumulate, the less we give, which brings up the proportional aspect.

Proportional giving looks at how much you keep, after you have given. This is important, so important we see Christ talking about it as well (Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4). I widow gave her offering of two mites, which in totality is next to nothing, until we look at it proportionally.

She gave two mites, which was all she had. Likewise, if a person with an income of $40,000 a year gives 20% annually, or $8000, it seems little in comparison to someone who gives $20,000 on a million dollar income. Proportionately, the smaller gift is actually a larger gift, because that household has less to live on, but requires a greater faith. They are living on less than 80% of their income, and trusting God to provide for them.

Tithe teaches us faith. When we tithe we are trusting in God to provide for us. The more we give, the more we are forced trust. As a new believer learns about God, he/she must first learn to tithe. Tithing is a basic tool that a new believer ought to learn to use, because it teaches many lessons about faith.

First, it requires the new believer to trust God. Second, it will show the new believer that God does provide. Third, it shows God is not a big angry God, He asks us to test Him in our giving, and if we do, He opens up so much for us, its hard to keep track of it.

If you are not returning to God 10% of you gross annual income, I challenge you to start. Test God in this, and see what He does in your life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tax Time Part 2

My husband and I went to have our taxes done today. We handed our accountant all the paperwork and should hear back on the results in a couple of weeks. It's going to be hard to wait, I SO want to know now. I'm nervous that we may end up owing taxes this year.

There have been some changes since my first post on Taxes and I thought I would follow up with the new information. As you might know by now, Obama's Stimulus Package is now signed. Don't worry, I'm not getting into my feelings on that whole thing here, I only mention it because that has an affect on taxes as well. You might recall in my other post I mentioned the $7,500 tax credit for buying a house this year or last year. That has been been increased for this year to $8,000 and, best of all, is no longer a loan that has to be paid back.

Also as a reminder, in order to have the best shot at getting grants, scholarships, and other financial help through FAFSA, taxes should be done and entered by March 1st. I'm not sure if I will make this deadline myself but I will enter the information as soon as I can.

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

So, Last night hubby and I had a great grocery shopping trip. I actually think we might be able to meet our budget this month. We left Meijer last night and spent... get this... UNDER $100. It's pretty rare that we're able to do that at Meijer. In fact, we only spent $79. Because of sales and coupons we got $16 off so it would have cost us $95 regularly. I think we should be about set for groceries for the rest of the month.

I think the largest eye opener for both of us is when we started comparing prices in the paper product aisle. We had toilet paper, paper towels, and Kleenex in the cart and we were up to about $20 already. We took some things out and my Hubby noticed a pretty awesome sale at the end of the aisle which was 1$ for 4 rolls of toilet paper which allowed us to cut the amount we were going to spend in half. Nice! It was a little annoying, walking up and down the aisle a few times to check all the prices and try to figure out if it was a better deal to get 2-ply with more sheets or more sheets with 1 ply but overall it was worth it.

On another note, we had to really be careful with coupons. In the paper product aisle we had a few coupons that we ended up not using because the sales on other brands beat the price of the coupon brands, even with their coupons applied. It can be really tempting to use the coupons just for the sake of using them up before they expire. In addition, at the checkout our cashier scanned one of the coupons and it only showed up as 40 cents instead of the 75 cents it was supposed to scan as. Hubby and I were ready to argue, which I think he realized and ended up just crediting us the other 35 cents. I felt a little petty but really.. money is money and every little bit helps.

I'd love to learn more tips and tricks about saving money at the grocery store. What tips n tricks do you use?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tax Time!

It's the lovely time of year again, Tax time. I'm a bit odd, as I truly do enjoy doing taxes. I just love to add up all the totals and see what was made and what I can write off, I find it very interesting. Sometimes I think maybe I should have been an accountant. But I digress...

There are a few things I wanted to notify my readers about, making sure you all get the most up to date information before your file your papers for this year. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Stimulus Credit - There is a question on this year's form relating specifically to the stimulus credit we got last year of about $600-$1200. This was basically an advance on the credit we would have gotten for taxes this year. Because of this, if you had a child after receiving the credit last year, you are eligible for another $300 per child in 2008. Make sure to grab your credit on this year's taxes! If you didn't have any little ones then you will most likely have to enter zero on this line instead.
  • New Limits - New limits have been announced for 401Ks and Roth IRAs. The previous limit for 401Ks was $15,500 annually, it is now $16,500. The previous limit for Roth IRAs was $4,000 per person, it is now $5,000. There is also the option for catch-up payments if you're 50 or older, making these limits $22,000 and $6,000 respectively.
  • For Those Who are Retired - Due to our economy being on a downward spiral, the Worker, Retiree, and Employer Recovery law was passed in 2008 allowing a one-year moratorium on 2009 minimum required disbursements. This allows people the option of not taking our money from their retirement accounts at a large loss in hopes that the economy will be back on track by 2010. NOTE: If you setup automatic withdraws from your retirement accounts they will not automatically stop. You will still have to contact your retirement center (Fidelity for example) to stop the payments.
  • Deductions/Credits for Refinancing or Home purchase - If you refinanced your mortgage or purchases a home in 2008 you are eligible for a couple more deductions and credits this year. For those refinancing in 2008 or this year, not only is your interest for your mortgage tax deductible, is your PMI (if you have it). For those who purchases a home, you're eligible for a $7,500 credit. NOTE: This "credit" is really just a 0% loan at this point which will be paid back over the next few years of your taxes. There has been talk about making this a true credit that taxpayers won't have to payback... we shall see.

So there you have it! Some things to keep in mind when you or someone else is doing your taxes this year. Make sure if you are having someone else do your taxes that they don't miss anything, that's why it's helpful to keep yourself informed. I have had to correct taxes done at H&R block because they missed credits that I knew about in the past (namely the credit for moving expenses due to job relocation).

Have a happy tax season!

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