Financial Peace with Dave Ramsey #FPU @DaveRamsey @FrazerUMC

Laurie and I are in week 4 (about to attend week 5) of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Our church is hosting the event for all of its members (and the general public) and has been urging all of us to attend so that we will find financial peace to help prevent divorce (money problems are the #1 cause for divorce in America) and serve the Lord more freely. It’s a great program on how to get your finances in order and grow to a point where you can “Live and Give like no one else”.

Laurie and I were already using a pseudo envelope system to manage our budget and finances through an online tool called NeoBudget. That was working pretty well. We were managing things, but we’re just now recovering from many years of hard times. Dave Ramsey’s program is awesome. It’s a little hard to get used to because he asks some very hard things (cut up your credit cards in front of your group in class), but it’s worth it (we still didn’t cut up our credit cards…yet – sorry Dave).

NeoBudget treated everything like an envelope and you managed “virtual” envelopes on the web that represented different categories. Then, you could create a budget that let you break out different budget items into the various envelopes. When a paycheck came in, it would use the budget you created to disperse the money into the envelopes based on what you assigned it to in the budget. Then, when it was time to pay bills or buy groceries, you simply took the money out of the envelope.

While it was a dramatic improvement over Quicken, it wasn’t exactly what we needed. It wasn’t until we started Dave’s Financial Peace University (FPU) that we found the perfect way to budget…the “every dollar” budget.

Basically, you create a budget every month that accounts for every single dollar you plan to make and spend that month. Then, at the end of the month, if there is any money that you didn’t spend in a particular budget category (I am reluctant to use the term “extra money” because that implies you can do anything you want with it), you apply it to one of 7 “baby steps” that you are working on:

  1. Save $1,000 in an emergency fund
  2. Pay off all of your debt using the “debt snowball” method – pay off your lowest balances first, then apply the payment from them to your next highest balance, then apply all of that money to the next highest until you pay off all of your debt
  3. Add to your emergency fund enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses (not income, but expenses)
  4. Save %15 in a retirement plan
  5. Create a college fund for your children
  6. Pay off your house
  7. Build wealth and give to others

Of course, the baby steps aren’t just met by using the leftover money from the month, they should also be your highest budgeting priority for your income after meeting your basic needs. Dave calls the basic needs the “four walls” – Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Transportation. Laurie and I both agree that he needs to add a fifth wall – Health. As you progress through the baby steps, you gain more and more money to work with and your finances start to stabilize. You can then achieve financial peace the way God intended.

I believe in Dave’s plan and Laurie and I are dedicated to doing it his way, even in areas where we disagree. I think the most controversial topic so far has been the debt snowball as it seems counter-intuitive to logic – wouldn’t it make more sense to pay off the debt with the highest balance and interest rates first? Upon further reflection and study, our group has agreed that the snowball method is actually the best way because it gives you a sense of accomplishment early on in the process.

My dad posted a great website on my Facebook page that is 100% compatible with FPU. In fact, it’s a Dave Ramsey website, so it’s perfect for use with FPU. It uses the budget form in the FPU workbook and integrates with your bank to retrieve your transactions. The website is We’ve stopped using NeoBudget and switched to We’re finding that it’s much more realistic as not everything is an envelope. In fact, it doesn’t use the envelope scheme as the basis of the process, it uses the budget as the core. And, since it’s an every dollar budget system, it helps you account for every dollar you plan to spend and makes it easy to create a new budget for each month based on the previous month as a starting point. For budget items that span multiple months or for budget items like saving for a new car, FPU (and teaches you to create a “fund” that carries a balance from month to month. makes it easy to convert a budget item to a fund so that you can add and remove transactions from it. Once you have a budget worked out, you can withdraw cash from the bank and put it in envelopes for use in things like “pocket money”, or groceries. Dave recommends using cash for things like groceries and gas because he wants you to “feel it”. If you use plastic to pay for everything, you don’t have an emotional reaction. also handles your debt perfectly. Each month, you enter the new balance of your debt and set the amount that you plan to pay during that month. As you pay it down, will show your progress on the budget sheet.

It also has a great pie chart and category list that shows the percentages of each budget category. That makes it easy to follow Dave’s guidelines for how much you should be spending in a given category. It took Laurie many hours to get our percentages worked out (she’s the nerd, I’m the free spirit), but we now have a working budget that accounts for every dollar. Since it’s not based on what you have, but rather what you plan to spend, it’s less tempting to “borrow” money from one envelope to pay for a shortage in another (I’m guilty of stealing money from the car repair and grocery envelope to pay for a negative balance in the dining out envelope). By putting a hard (but realistic) number in the budget items, it’s simple to plan for the future.

We’re still working on the first few baby steps, but we’re excited about the future thanks to FPU.

I highly recommend to anyone who wants to get a handle on their budget.

I also highly recommend Financial Peace University to anyone who wants to feel good about their money situation.

Thanks to Dave, we’re dedicated to “living like no one else, so we can live like no one else”.

Please disable your Ad Blocker before it’s too late #advertising

I was listening to the radio this morning on my way to work and they were talking about ad blockers. Ad blockers allow users to browse the web without having to view the advertisements displayed on web pages. These ads are very annoying and are very large in terms of file sizes of the files required to display them. I’ve waited up to a minute for a web page to load the ads before displaying the content. Many “click-bait” articles on Facebook contain so many ads that it’s hard to find the actual content that you’re there to read.

Because of all of these issues with ads, many people are installing ad blockers on their computers and smartphones so they don’t have to view these annoying ads. However, because these websites depend on ad revenue for their very existence, ad blockers prevent them from getting paid. Of course, the first reaction people have is “too bad, they should find another way to make money so I can enjoy this free content”. But, let’s take a look at their options:

  • Paywalls – They can charge for “admission” to their website and require payment in exchange for content
  • Advertorials (also called “Native advertising”) – They can replace legitimate, useful articles with seemingly benign commercially motivated articles that attempt to hide an advertisement behind a news story while promoting a specific point of view as outlined by the advertiser
  • Pay the ad blocker companies to have their ads exempt from blocking. The ad blocking software would then display their ads to the users, regardless of their ad blocking settings
  • Find private funding
  • Slowly go out of business

Ad blockers are not new, they have been around for over 15 years. So far, they’ve mostly been used by more computer savvy people as they require a bit of tinkering to get them right. Lately, though, ad blockers have gotten easier to use. In fact, Apple is now recommending some of the ad blockers available on iOS as a way to protect privacy (ad blockers also prevent browser tracking and demographic mechanisms from working).

This troubles me as a consumer. I have never used ad blockers because I understand that the websites I enjoy reading need the income from ads in order to survive. I have adopted what the ad industry calls “banner blindness”, a situation where a person cannot recall the ad that was on a web page from 2 seconds ago. It’s because when I load a web page (that does not attack me with a frozen page and a dialog containing an ad and a small “X” somewhere on one of the four corners of the ad that lets me close it), I can instantly move my eyes to the content and avoid looking at the ads. Of course, they know this, so many ads are animated and flash a lot in order to get your attention. In those situations, if the flashing proves to be too distracting, I abandon the content and close the web page, completely discarding the whole mess. Nothing is that important.

I believe that ads are a necessary evil. However, many advertisers are resorting to nefarious (for lack of a better word) strategies to force me to view their message before I can get to the content. The industry is so consumed by the need for ads that many “articles” are only one or two paragraphs of “information” surrounded on all sides by animated ads. These “articles” tend to have headlines like “Islamic gun owners gather in Central Park. You won’t believe what happens next”, with a link to the content right below some controversial or shocking image.

That’s where we are now, and it’s getting worse. If you visit one of these pages with an ad blocker enabled, you will see the content without the ads and you will feel like you have won a great battle. It is my belief that you are actually contributing to the other side. Why? Because if they can’t get your attention the “old fashioned” way, they’ll invent new ways to sell things to you.

I also argue that not all ads are bad. If you allow websites to track you and the whole system to work as it’s designed, then you will see ads that are related to your interests. This is the ideal for everyone as the advertisers get their message in front of the right people and you see things that interest you. Sure, it’s a bit unsettling to see a pair of shoes that you were looking at last week on Target’s website show up in a web advertisement on a news article you’re reading today. But, this is a good thing overall.

I say it’s good to be tracked because if you take away the power of advertisers to reach you, then the websites that depend on ad revenue will start to topple.

I’m seeing more and more “articles” that are nothing more than product placements for crap I don’t want. That means that somewhere, something is disconnected. I don’t want to read that garbage. I want to read about products that I’m interested in. I want a point of view that isn’t biased toward one product over another simply because the author of the article is getting paid more by one company over another.

I want to keep the current system where ads are driven by tracking algorithms, not by highest bidder. If the advertisers have no way of knowing who is reading the articles, then they will just start buying more authors to write articles on their behalf and the web will be filled with bias. It will be really hard to filter the “real” news from the contrived news. The web will turn into one giant advertisement.

Also, all you’re doing if you install an ad blocker is moving the money to a different place. The ad blockers will charge advertisers to allow their ads through the filter so you’ll still see the ads (well, only the ones who can afford the high prices of the ad blockers), and now we’ll have a new market controlled by ad blocking companies.

I realize that we are paying for the bandwidth that is being used by advertisers to send us their message. I also agree that the advertising industry needs to come up with a better system for displaying and creating advertisements. I believe that there should be less flashing and distractions that get in the way of the content. I also believe that content creators should spend more time composing real content and not just a few paragraphs of conjecture and controversial bias surrounded by ten ads.

You can make a difference. Stop clicking on the sensational click-bait that everyone likes to share on Facebook. If the headline ends in “You won’t believe what happens next”, then take their word for it, because what happens next is, you click on the link and they get paid for all the ads that pop up in front of your eyeballs while you read yet another empty piece on some controversial topic that has no redeeming value whatsoever.

But please, turn off your ad blocker. If you use it, you are forcing their hands to take more extreme measures. They will find a way to make money and tell you about the stuff you just can’t live without.

The Real Soldier

The enemy is near, beware his elusive ways.

He lurks in the darkness, abusing the people for his selfish purposes.

His ideals are dangerous, he believes things which are against sensible human morality.

His propaganda spreads conflict to all who will listen. And believe me, there are a lot who are eager to hear his words.

He appeals to the base desires of his followers, trapping them in his game.

He trains them to hunt for him, eradicating all who will stand against him.

If he cannot silence them, he kills them. If he cannot kill them, he buys them.

The souls who have been bought work tirelessly to promote his message, because his message is their message.

They attend gatherings to perfect their craft, so that they can more effectively do his bidding.

They convince more to join their ranks with promises of untold riches.

They develop an environment of trust so that no one dare speak against him and his allies.

But they never deliver on their promises.

They ensure that those who could stand against them remain distracted.

They ensure that the truth of what they do never reaches the masses, for that would undo centuries of established lies.

The enemy recruits his troops from the desperate and proud pupils of his substandard institutions.

He spends untold fortunes on their grooming.

They are loyal and devoted.

They will fight on the battlefield and lay down their life for their master.

But these aren’t the real soldiers he depends on to fight his war.

The real soldiers are the ones who repeat the lies they memorize from the unrelenting propaganda machine.

No matter where they get their information, it will always come from the same source.

They are the real soldiers of the enemy.

My presentation was accepted for the Atlanta Code Camp in October #atlcodecamp

I will be speaking at the 2015 Atlanta Code Camp on Saturday, October 24th.

Developing Apps for the Pebble Smartwatch using Windows Azure

You can get more information about the code camp and register on the Code Camp Website.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been involved in the Atlanta .NET community. I think my last presentation was in 2004 or 2005. It has taken awhile, but I’m starting to get back in the game.

I’ve been working with Bruce Thomas, Satya Cherukumilli, and Doug Huff to get the Montgomery, AL .NET user group back up and running. We had our first meeting last week and it went very well. We had 44 developers show up for the first meeting – and we didn’t even advertise that food would be provided until after the meeting had already started.

The #Puzzle

If information was like pieces to a puzzle, you might think that having all the pieces given to you would be a good thing. But what if those are pieces to the wrong puzzle? What would a puzzle look like with pieces that you discovered on your own?

How to make the #FitBit #Aria recognize you after setup

After you first setup the FitBit Aria and weigh yourself, you may notice that it only displays your measurement as “Guest”.

To get it to recognize you, you’ll need to log into your dashboard and assign the measurement to your account.

Here is a screenshot of the menu at the top-right of the Dashboard after you have logged into your FitBit account:


Click on the “Aria Scale” menu option. That will give you the screen below:


Under the People column, you should see measurements for “Guest”. Change those to the appropriate account by clicking on the button and choosing the correct account from the drop-down.

Now, go to your scale and weigh yourself again. It should register you as “Guest” one last time, but this time, it should prompt the scale to go into “Update” mode. Once it is finished updating, you should be associated with your account. Now try to weigh yourself again. It should now measure your body fat percentage and then display your initials on the scale.