A Crazy Canuck: 7 Radical Financial Tips You Probably Won’t Use

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This article is part of the MH4C Writers Challenge. I’d like to see which articles you like the most. If you like an article, please take a moment to ‘Like’ it on Facebook, ‘Tweet’ it, or give it a ‘Plus One’ on Google +. (To the right of the title, you’ll see each of those buttons so it should make your job easier.) The winner of the MH4C Writers Challenge is the article that has the most social media shares.

The following entry was submitted by Dave Ellis, an elementary teacher in small-town Canada.  His blog is Bitcoin Canada Blog.

Below are secrets from the faith and finances of a frugal father. They are things my wife and I have implemented over the years to save a boatload of dough. Most of them are not that simple for the average person, some even requiring a complete mindset and lifestyle overhaul. But you are not average. You are a citizen of the kingdom of God, called to a life of adventure and sacrifice. Hopefully a couple of these tips will encourage you to consider a permanent change for the better. If not, you might end up with, at the very least, an amusing story to tell (see #5).

1. Live close to work. I supported my wife’s decision to quit her job in the insurance industry to be at home with our kids (4, 2, and ready to leave the oven). We then moved to within 1 km (0.6 miles) of my workplace so I could walk or bike to work. This allows us to happily live on one income with one vehicle.

2. Pay cash for a used vehicle. Last year we bought a 6-year old minivan with cash. No monthly payment, no interest. We love it. Nobody needs a brand new SUV. If this is tough for you to swallow, repeat it a few times to yourself while considering the savings, and you’ll be cured. We now save weekly for our next vehicle, with the goal of never having a car payment ever again.

3. Say goodbye to cable TV. I invested about $120 towards an antenna on our roof (antenna, tripod, hardware, grounding wire) and we get 6 digital channels completely free. No cable bill. Totally awesome. Do some research in your area to see how many channels you’d get. Because if you actually have time to watch 50 channels or more, I have a hunch God may have bigger and better plans for your life.

4. Having a smartphone is dumb. Okay, not true. But since one of my life goals is to be the last North American adult without a cell phone, I have to stick this one out, merely on principle. Incidentally, it has saved us a ton of money over the years. You would likely freak out if you calculated your lifetime cell phone expense thus far. I would love to know this dollar amount as well. A laptop and iPod are sufficient for me, and neither come with a monthly bill. Oh wait, I do have a monthly internet bill. I’m not Amish (yet).

5. Raise backyard chickens. Seriously. We own 3 hens and get fresh eggs daily. Growing or raising your own food, and/or buying even a small percentage of fresh, local (REAL) food is better for your health, the environment, and your local economy. Now, the chickens don’t actually save us much (any?) money, but they’re a cheap, low maintenance pet, that I recommend to any omelet-lover out there. But check local bylaws first. And what’s with the FDA and FBI? They’re not out to support the independent food producer, but massive corporations. If either gives you trouble, pray about it. Then move to Canada.

6. Make your own clothes. I once found a pattern, bought the material, and cut and sewed together a shirt for myself. It was very satisfying. It cost me about 8 bucks and 8 hours of time. The same day my clothing brand, Old Davey, was born, it died. I’ll never do it again. But my brother-in-law has kept at it (he made pants, a dress shirt, and even a pair of undies) and who knows, maybe this is the new, money-saving hobby for you.

7. Never carry credit card debt. The excellent posts on this blog and subsequent discussions have dealt with the topic of debt very nicely. Debt simply cripples in so many ways and adds too much stress. The only good debts are a mortgage (increase payments annually if possible) and a student loan (pay off ASAP). Having no debt equals more money to give to the churches, charities, and people of your choice, and offers more opportunity to make family memories.


  1. says

    I live three miles away from work. I love it. I put less than 5,000 miles per year on my car that way. We also own both of our cars outright. One we did have a loan for but paid it off (early) and the other we paid cash for. I also don’t carry credit card debt, though we charge a majority of what we can because we like the cash back rewards…all three of our flat screen TVs were purchased using reward checks.

  2. Wes Smith says

    Great advice! I live close to work and it gives me more time to do what is most important, be a Dad!.

  3. says

    Thanks, Wes. Sounds like you have your priorities right (happy belated father’s day, by the way). With the price of gas these days (especially in Canada!) living close to work is a huge money-saver, eh? Beagle, 5000 miles per year on a car is awesome, nice work! We bought a flat-screen TV with credit card rewards, too!

  4. says

    Lot’s of good advice here Dave but on what basis can you say, “The only good debts are a mortgage … and a student loan …”? This is a cultural value, not a biblical one. In some cultures (outside of the US) homes and education are normally provided by family and parents debt-free which is the biblical teaching. Your viewpoint is different to mine and I believe coloured by your current environment, bringing in your social norms to override the better guidelines for biblical living. My advice – ALL debt has a high price, especially that incurred early in life and ALWAYS that which incurs interest charges. It may be hard to conceptualise this where you live but it’s Bible first, culture second in my book.

  5. says

    Dennis, thanks for the comment! Great point about good debt. Actually my thinking about this has changed, in part, due to reflecting on one of Craig’s posts. The term “good debt” is misleading, and what I mean is, those debts were worth it at the time. In the long run they added value to my life and lives of others, and I simply had no other way at the time to get an education or own a house but to take on debt.

    But when you say this “is a cultural value, not a biblical one” I have to note, I did not say anywhere I was teaching a Biblical position on any of my points, nor did I reference any scripture. All of my points are obviously relevant to today’s culture. I’m a bit perplexed that you attempt to separate Biblical truth from cultural context, like they’re opposites or something, and you imply our culture is inherently bad. Jesus used symbols and parables that were extremely culturally significant to his original audience. I believe our challenge is not to separate Biblical truth from our culture, but to figure out how to share the life and love of Christ in the time and place we find ourselves.

    I would also love for you to provide scripture references that teach that education should should be provided by family or in the home. I believe even in first-century Israel, Jewish boys would leave their homes to get educated full-time with a local Rabbi.

  6. says

    Sorry for the assumption. Because of the blog content, title and stated purpose I assumed that you were writing as a Christian to Christians with Christian (therefore biblical) viewpoints. I will develop this entire concept more and post an article online on my blog in the Samoan context (where I live) but basically culture (the norms of your society) creates the environment where ungodly behaviour can become tolerated, then accepted, then the norm. Going back to the basics in scripture I see many things considered culturally normal in the Western world to be far less than ideal. Democracy is a cultural norm in the West but is certainly not a biblical model of governance. Debt likewise can be seen as ‘good’ in certain cultures but only because it is normal practice, thus my question about your phrase “good debt”. ‘Good war’, ‘good democracy’, ‘good divorce’ and ‘good debt’ are all phrases that are in general the result of cultural conditioning and not biblical study. In regards to education, I’m not bothered that much by what others did or didn’t do historically, but if anyone (Jews or otherwise) send or sent their children to specialist teachers, and enslaved them into debt as a result of that teaching system then they miss the heart of God – He wants us to first learn from Himself (in the Old Testament era through the Torah, priests and prophets, then in the New Testament era through the Holy Spirit) and as children through, our parents. I’ve observed this to be most effective primarily through imbibing, but secondarily through direct teaching of parents to children.

    This thinking does not preclude anyone incurring debt as a result of adversity and suchlike, but the problem that I see and identified in your article, and confirmed by your response here, is that justifying debt, classifying it as good or bad, is a slipperly slope and misses the entire point of biblical teaching – debt is NOT good, and involving ones self with the sin of usury is really playing with fire!

    I think that your phrase “those debts were worth it at the time” indicates the key issue for reflection – you saw a value in doing it; there was an objective; you justified it; and you got the return. I understand this. It is a business risk and normal life decision in your culture but it runs counter to scripture that teaches that in principle indebtedness is bad. If things had gone wrong – debt spiralled, illness struck, a downturn engineered by the banking cartel or whatever you may very well be saying “Hmm it wasn’t worth it”. One who didn’t take the risk and undertook an alternative path in faith would never have this disaster as possibility.

    I would note that I really don’t want to ping anyone here – just highlight the very real influence that your culture has had and is having on your world view, especially in regards to that of debt. For the record I also have real issues with this same topic on many of Craig’s posts, but I know his audience and respect his angle. I live in another culture however and see things VERY differently!

    I will try to post more on this and update the comments. I do have one article though on the evil of usury in the Samoan context (http://www.dennis.co.nz/2013/01/the-evil-of-usury/).

    In regards to the culture vs biblical issues, cultural norms are a common way that the purity and simplicity of God’s word is polluted. Rest assured that while we might not see it when we live in only one culture – it certainly exists – and especially so where I live. Basically when it is a case of culture vs scripture, most of the time the culture seems to win, until there is a crisis, awakening and then repentance. It is a very real issue. When it is culturally accepted to go into debt as a newly married couple just in order to get a home to live in or when it is normal to enslave ones self just in order to get a job, I think something has gone very very VERY wrong!

    Keep asking questions and thinking Dave – it winds the bad-guy up and brings a smile to the King’s face!


  7. says

    Dennis, thanks for adding context and expanding on some thoughts. You make some excellent points. You’re absolutely right about certain societal values becoming the norm, which are contrary to, let’s say, God’s intended way of living. Jesus flipped some accepted societal norms upside down, both social and religious, which made lots of people angry enough to want Him dead.

    I’m sure there are many aspects of Samoan culture I would envy, that are superior to certain North American norms and values. Even though my article was intended to be a bit light-hearted, you’ve encouraged deeper thinking into some subjects, and I really appreciate that.

  8. old pal says


    I agree with Dave about a number of aspects I probably envy about Samoan culture. There’s some irony in your critique however. In each of Dave’s suggestions he is gently undermining North American norms. Each of these ideas are valid points for being in and not of this world. “Good” is a tough word to tag with “debt”, I agree. Maybe “Better Debt”… or “Less worse debt” ;)

    In order to leave home and be married, many North American’s must either rent or purchase a home. My parents helped with my home, but couldn’t simply purchase a home for me. My mortgage is significantly less than what I was paying in rent. It’s not a gamble… even if it doesn’t work for any given reason, I am playing less than I would renting. I understand your take on scripture but rest assured the bible is not only lengthy but heady. There are angles such as submitting to the law of the land, that you seem to be skipping over in order to present some very good ideals. I’m with you 100% on the debt being a bad thing, but there are examples of debt within the bible. Examples where God doesn’t condemn those who owe… now those who lend… they tend to be painted with a different brush.

    Believe me, I hear what you’re saying, but Christian’s would have to up and leave North American to live out certain biblical ideals. This would leave us failing in other biblical ideals.

    Thanks for getting me thinking about all this.

    Peace and Love,


    • says

      If what I have said has helped two people to think, then I’m over the moon, Jared!

      > There’s some irony in your critique however . . . he is gently undermining North American norms.
      Funny eh? You had me chuckling.

      > Maybe “Better Debt”… or “Less worse debt”
      It depends on what our take on scripture’s teaching is. Would you say better divorce? Or a less worse lie? I do not want to preach so much here but to challenge the underlying assumptions that comes from our cultural bias.

      > There are angles . . . that you seem to be skipping over . . . there are examples of debt within the bible.
      Not sure that I agree with this line of thinking Jared. While my world is all manner of shades of gray, the bible tends to be a lot more black and white, and I’ve noted over the years that when we apply white on our gray areas, in faith, then blessings tend to accrue. On the contrary maintaining shades of gray seems to dilute the work of the Holy Spirit.

      I live in a highly religious ‘Christian’ country with an exagerated separation between believers who by their very faith rock the boat and the majority who play the religious game. As I grow older, hopefully wiser and have more life experience living on the edge, despite apparently increasing restrictions and stresses, I see every day more opportunity to break free from the norms of our society, not less, AS LONG AS we listen to His leading, exercise faith and then be obedient. Creativity also helps!

      Please, I do not live in your country so I cannot be specific about leaving home to establish a family, mortgages, rental and the need to fit in with the lifestyle that others do and so on, but if something is a social norm, and it doesn’t meet the Lord’s best, then thought leaders in the community have opportunity to do things differently. I’ve found that in principle a problem is always an opportunity and that the bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity.

      If I summarise in my mind what you are saying, it seems to me to lack faith somewhat; accepts or justifies second-best and suffers the consequences – increased risk and more. For example, if there was a global recession and the banks forclosed on the majority of your mortgages and loans then the norm in your society will be that the majority are further enslaved. Men of faith should look at the scripture, seek solutions that will likely avoid this situation and then step out in faith. Telling me that it is a cultural norm to borrow (not rent) because it is ‘smarter’ reinforces a point I have been making from the outset, Dave’s tips may be ‘better’, but there is still a cultural component to them that is hard to see when you are within that culture.

      I have an increased sensitivity to this issue because In the last few years I have moved from the Western culture, the developed world into a totally different, South Pacific third world culture and have pretty much lost all, in the process learning the significance of my own cultural conditioning. It is my intent to teach and reveal, not to criticise or pull down. If anyone is interested in HOW to deal with this specifically I would be happy to explore possibilities offline, but I’ve yet to find a real-life situation that challenges our faith that cannot be addressed with humility, creative thinking and obedience. I’ve found that most situations of scriptural compromise tend to reveal agendas – even if those agendas are cultural norms, such as good/better/less worse debt. Even the need to leave home is an agenda of sorts. Families where I live remain with their parents a lot longer, and there are many more agendas, sometimes hidden we could tackle that tend to justify gray-area activities.

      Thanks for responding to my comments Jared

  9. old pal says

    I should have warned you… I’m long winded ;)

    >Would you say better divorce? Or a less worse lie?

    Yes, I would say that there is “better” or “less worse” sin. Not sure if this example will clarify what I’m saying, but it’s worth a try. I want my wife to be happy. On the surface that’s a good thing, however with some difficulty I can admit that part of my desire for her happiness is selfish. A happy wife lets me away with more, praises me more, and now and then gives me gifts in return. In this way, part of my good work is selfish. I hardly think God will smite me because of it, but I do think it important to admit even the kernels of selfishness, as I believe them to be the basis for sin. I find it a useful and humbling reminder of my need for salvation.
    Or perhaps an example of lying. While we were painting together my daughter asked me “what colour does red and yellow make?” I coupled a lie with a truth and said “I don’t know, you should try.” I told her something that wasn’t true, but not because I wanted to deceive her, but because a small deception would lead to self discovery and confidence in her own ability to figure things out. I feel I’ve told much worse lies in my lifetime.

    I would say that Jesus in Matthew 5 and 19 addresses “better” or “less bad” divorce Christ seemed to acknowledge that the ideal will not be met, but encourages the pursuit of that ideal despite our inabilities.

    >the bible tends to be a lot more black and white

    The bible being black and white in no way ensures our understanding to be so. I respect your statement, but my reading of scripture is different than yours. Some of the White in the Bible seems to disagree with other White parts, and some of the Black does does the same… Worse yet there’s all sorts of Red (small joke).
    Jesus gave an example of accepting blatant sinners (at times without pointing out their sins), which caused the religious leaders to question his morality. The same man/God that gratefully and gently sat with obvious sinners, ranted and raved against the religious. This is a strong indicator that Jesus was less concerned with sins that we typically get worked up about, and more concerned with sins like being judgmental, or hypocritical. I suspect it’s because it’s harder to acknowledge self-righteousness then say sexual immorality in one’s self. For this reason I’m very hesitant to make claims of black and white. I used to feel I had these things figured out. The more I learn about my God the more I realize my greatest leap towards the truth is at best a stumble into his grace.

    >For example, if there was a global recession and the banks forclosed on the majority of your mortgages and loans then…

    I may not have been clear enough in my reference to my mortgage being cheaper than my rent. If your example scenario unfolded I would still have squandered less money on my mortgage than I would have in rent. If your example scenario doesn’t unfold, I have significantly more money with which I’m able to ideally use to further God’s Kingdom in this country and others. Not sure if that clarifies. Also leaving home is not simply a cultural issue (I know of those who do not leave home, and I have used my parents to live with in my adult life), it’s biblical concept. Matthew 19:5

    In terms of cultural influence: I’ve lived in New Guinea for a few years, and China for a two. I’ve spent significant amounts of time in Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the U.S.A. doing relief work. I currently live in a small house, purchased within intentional proximity to less fortunate neighborhoods because the needs are obvious and I believe I can help.
    I am glad your move caused you to rethink American culture, but I doubt you’ve learned or thought more than I have about these things. That’s not to say I think I’ve learned more, but that these things cannot be measured by either of us.

    >If I summarise in my mind what you are saying, it seems to me to lack faith somewhat; accepts or justifies second-best and suffers the consequences – increased risk and more.

    If you surmise that my statements indicate a lack of faith (or settles for second best), I suspect you’ve missed something along the way. Another man’s faith is not something we’re called to measure. I don’t doubt your faith, nor am I too concerned if you think my faith might be weak. The fact that God assures us that it is up to him to see our hearts, leads me to believe that no one should attempt to tackle that task. Perhaps what you’re saying is you see Faith differently. I suppose we do, but that’s why sharing these things is so important.

    Thank you again for your words and thoughts!

    • says

      Dear old pal, methinks we’re on different pages methinks, or not communicating efficiently!
      > Yes, I would say that there is “better” or “less worse” sin.
      Not if you define sin as more of a ‘state of being’ than an action or ommission (which I do). Jesus spoke of man’s failing in this regard as a mere thought. There are however different consequences for different sinful action but sin itself is black and white, otherwise there could be no valid judgement.

      > I do think it important to admit even the kernels of selfishness, as I believe them to be the basis for sin. I find it a useful and humbling reminder of my need for salvation.
      Agreed 100%

      > The bible being black and white in no way ensures our understanding to be so. and
      > I’m very hesitant to make claims of black and white. I used to feel I had these things figured out. The more I learn about my God the more I realize my greatest leap towards the truth is at best a stumble into his grace.

      We’re agreed. I think you are confusing the fact that most things ARE black and white with our limited knowledge of WHEN things are black and white. It is an act of faith to state that there is a heaven and hell, that Christ claimed an exclusive lien on the truth and that there is sin, right/wrong and so on. It is an act of arrogance for us to claim knowledge of this applied to others, short of revelation or some other unusual circumstance. We have a saying in Samoa that the crab sees more, the higher the coconut tree he climbs, but I’ve learned more and more the importance of speaking what we do see day by day, respectfully, and non-judgementally of course.

      > I may not have been clear enough in my reference to my mortgage being cheaper than my rent
      No you were fine, and I got your meaning OK but you and I differ on this point remarkably. We may have to agree to disagree. You justify your mortgage because it is better for you financially for whatever reason, albeit increasing risk. I say, we should read the scriptures carefully and apply them. The forces exerted on your decision-making are contrary to the ‘ideal’. I’m not saying that you are a bad person or are sinning, my point (again) is that when we take out the cultural component, we find ourselves staring at the reality of black and white where there is no ‘good’ debt that I see Jesus or the entire bible talking about, certainly not any debt based on logistics, personal interests, ministry reasons or cultural ones.

      > leaving home is not simply a cultural issue . . . it’s biblical concept. Matthew 19:5
      You reference in Matthew is a quotation from Gen 2:24 in which the translation of the connecting words “That is why” [a man leaves etc] is a statement describing what typically happens, not what will or should happen. It is not a biblical principle in my books, but it is normal in your culture – agreed. The Net Bible translation notes comment thus: QUOTE It is saying, “This is why we do things the way we do.” It links a contemporary (with the narrator) practice with the historical event being narrated. The historical event narrated in v. 23 provides the basis for the contemporary practice described in v. 24. That is why the imperfect verb forms are translated with the present tense rather than future. END QUOTE.

      My take on this issue is that some countries practice extended family arrangements and others like yours don’t. Our Christian faith does not require us to all ‘move out of home’ immediately. So yes moving out of home and starting a family in debt IS a cultural ideosyncracy of many Western countries. This is the very point I am trying to make in this whole thing – cultural norms can interfere with a stright read and application of scripture. Tom’s bullets are great – to a point, but they are highly influenced by and applicable to the US and similar cultures.

      > these things [cultural differences/influencers] cannot be measured by either of us.
      I wouldn’t have posted in reply if I didn’t feel that this matter was important. Speaking the truth as we see it, and of course humbly is critical to keeping a short account with God. The time and effort to think through these issues DOES return value in deepening our faith, challenging the status quo and getting people to think – even if it is just a few people reading a post like this online. I don’t know everything but when I see something that is noticable, important and to some degree measurable, it is important for me to speak about it. True I can’t measure it all but as you say, it’s not my role to judge, I’ll just note it.

      > If you surmise that my statements indicate a lack of faith (or settles for second best),
      Second best – Yes I do. Lack of faith – To some extent, yes but I chose my words very carefully when I said “. . . seems to me to lack faith somewhat”. This could be put less personally by explaining that a young couple who chooses to wait a little while before launching into the American Dream; who recognises the folly of incurring ANY debt, especially at the outset of their marriage; who actively seeks collaboartive arrangements with others to perhaps pool resources; who actively seeks debt-free alternative living solutions and who does this all in accordance with their belief that this is taught clearly in scripture would be exercising more faith than those who conduct themselves the way that you are speaking to me about, sort of what appears to be the lesser of two evils.

      > Perhaps what you’re saying is you see Faith differently.
      I’m not sure about that because I am focussing in on one issue only, that of the influence of cultural norms on our understanding and application of scripture, particularly in the area of incurring and justifying debt. In this regard we are pretty much poles apart I think!

      In some ways this is personal, although I’ve always said it is not my wish to put people down, rather to deal with the issues. I can’t though hear any justification for debt without wondering . . . thus my efforts to speak about it here. The key phrase that I highlighted before from Dave’s reply was “those debts were worth it at the time”. The key phrase that I would like to highlight from your reply is, ” If . . . I would still have squandered less money on my mortgage than I would have in rent.”

      If these statements are valid justification for incurring debt, then I’ve really got to reread my bible again, because nowhere that I can recall has a financial factor EVER been of concern to an infinite loving Creator who set out some pretty clear guidelines for His creation. On the other hand the Devil put monetary issues fairly prominently into the temptations of Christ.

      Sorry to be so brutal guys, but that’s the way I read it! Again, I repeat, I simply want to shoot straight and speak it as I see it, not to ping or judge others.

      May I also add two things:

      i) I can envision a time, perhaps not too far away when the scenario that I have just mentioned WILL come to pass and the banking fraternity will do the same as they did in the 1930s depression in the States, but at a global level. If this does happen, I can envision many people ruing the day that they succumbed to the cultural norms and either find themselves homeless, enslaved and/or desperately entrapped by people and systems deliberately engineered to manipulate.


      ii) I know of biblically based systems of funding for housing that avoids interest/usury. I know of people and situations where enormous benefit has come from collaboration/community and suchlike. I have a strong feeling that debt-free living can be achieved within a society gone mad with debt, and that the experiences and skills learned by people who do recognise and apply scripture in this area will be thought leaders and valued enormously by others should economic adversity occur.

      Please don’t just take my words as just a negative DON’T. There is much more that a Christian can enjoy when we put a positive DO into our financial life-choices, but that needs a totally new article and topic.


  10. old pal says

    Thank’s again Dennis for your thoughts.

    I suspect there is some communication break down… There’s a few things I still feel like trying to clarify, HOWEVER I think the bigger issue is being on different pages so I will rest my case and leave it up to our good creator.

    Thank you again for all your sharing.

    Peace and Love,


  11. says

    Well gentlemen, I thank you both for the ongoing dialogue. I’ve thought more about all of this, and any time you think, question, study, discuss, pray more, it’s been well worth it.
    I believe very few applications of the Bible are black and white (should we expect any different when the content deals with an almighty creator beyond human comprehension?), but I don’t see gray areas and difficult passages to be a negative thing. Perhaps our struggle is merely an extension of His freedom and grace.

    Unfortunately for me, I don’t think Craig judges the articles by the quality or quantity of the comments generated. : )

  12. says

    > I’ve thought more about all of this, and any time you think, question, study, discuss, pray more, it’s been well worth it.
    Thinking is dangerous but yes, good!

    > Unfortunately for me, I don’t think Craig judges the articles by the quality or quantity of the comments generated. : )
    I’d probably write more for you if he did! Cheers.

    Read more: http://www.moneyhelpforchristians.com/a-crazy-canuck-7-radical-financial-tips-you-probably-wont-use/#ixzz2ZevGymX9
    Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

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