Expert Interview with Bob Lotich on Giving More for Mint

We all get into financial ruts from time to time, but it can be especially bad for people who make decisions about how they spend money based on a lack of contentment, says Bob Lotich, the founder of Christian PF.

"Someone who can never say 'no' to themselves and refrain from making impulse purchases is on a path to financial destruction," he adds.

And Bob knows what he was talking about - he's been in that place before and says by the grace of God, he's a little better these days.

Through Christian PF, he hopes to help like-minded Christians get a handle on their finances so that they can get out of debt and to give more.

"My hope is that our readers can learn to be content and focus on spending less than they earn," he says.

Here, he offers advice on budgeting, saving money and finding personal finance inspiration in the Bible.

Tell us about Christian PF...when and why did you start the site?

I launched the site in June of 2007 and it all started around two topics I was passionate about: personal finance and Proverbs. I was going through a financial transformation in my own life and was feeling compelled to share what I was learning, and at the same time I was fascinated with some of the practical instruction that the Bible had to offer about money and finances.

Who should be reading it?

Our community is geared around the idea of living debt-free and giving very generously. Anyone passionate about either of those ideals will find plenty to help them achieve them.

Why do you think Christians needed a money-management resource like Christian PF?

As believers, we have a responsibility to use our money wisely and to use it to benefit the lives of those around us. Most of us need help staying focused on the task, and a site like ours helps readers stay focused on some of those deep-rooted financial goals.

What does the Bible tell us about how to view money?

One of the primary lessons is that our money is not ours. We believe that everything we have been given is a gift from God and as such we have a responsibility to be "good stewards" of what we've been given. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 is a great illustration.

What do you think are some basic best practices or smart rules of thumb for people who are starting the process of getting their finances in order? How can we avoid feeling overwhelmed?

For me, tracking my progress was critically important. I tracked my net worth while we were paying off our $47k in non-mortgage debt, and continually watching our net worth rise was extremely motivating and helped me fight through the discouragement.

What tips do you have for creating a budget you'll actually stick to?

You must budget for fun stuff. This is a mistake I see way too often. People will create a budget that is truly as much of a nightmare as people think budgets should be. But if you budget for fun items, it actually liberates you to spend money, and it feels a lot less like handcuffs.

A big part of your mission is helping people give more of their money...why is giving such an important part of what you coach? How do you advise readers on how much of their income to set aside for charity?

Giving is what makes the world go around. We all like getting stuff, but any mature adult knows that is really is more fun to give a gift! For believers, it is the example that Jesus set before us to follow and it truly is how we can make the world a better place. Be it giving our time, energy, love, words or money, joy and happiness is often birthed from something that someone gives.

As far as the amount, I think the most important thing is to always be striving to give more than we currently are. A lot of people talk about 10 percent, and I think that is a great baseline to follow, but I think we should always be seeking to give more.

What are some of the most unique ways you've found to save money over the years?

I actually wrote a book specifically about this with 21 of my favorite ways, but here are two of my favorites:

1. Honey - a browser extension that automatically pops up a little box whenever you are shopping online and automatically scours the web looking for coupon codes for you. I used this tool and saved 40 percent off an item I purchased from Gap.com.

2. BillCutterz - these guys negotiate your bills for you. All you do is send them your cell phone, cable, utility bills, etc., and they call and negotiate better rates for you. Then you split the savings with them. It doesn't cost you a dime, and the average user saves a few hundred dollars each year.

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