My $105 Cup of Coffee

31 Dec
Awesome Coffee

Nothing like that perfect cuppa

In January 2012 I bought a cup of coffee for R889.60 (about $105). A few days later I did it again. Now I bet you’re thinking 2 things. Firstly, “ARE YOU INSANE?!?!?!” and secondly “that must have been a magnificent cup of coffee.”

Where did I purchase this cup of coffee? Was it some incredibly rare-blend of coffee? Did it involve plane tickets, a camel ride, an audience with a Sheik and a marriage proposal? Or was it a moment of insanity? Brace yourself. The truth is it was a VERY below average house blend mug of filter coffee from our nearest Mugg & Bean. OK, I’ll admit that Mugg & Bean obviously doesn’t charge that much for a cup of coffee but everyday many of us spend that much purchasing a morning fix without realizing it.

Story time

Box of kittens

Meow meow meow

OK, I realize I’ve lost you all but please bear with me as I build some context that I promise will make sense towards the end. Once upon a time… Within the first half of 2011 our finances were what would probably be considered pretty good and stable. 2010 had been really expensive because of 2 tenants in a flat that couldn’t make rent payments, but could afford flat screen TV’s and new furniture. These tenants also thought we’d appreciate the gift of exorbitant heating bills. In 2011 however we had a new paying tenant. We were keeping up with payments (which included large credit card payments due to the shortfall from our non-paying tenants) and it looked like there was some light at the end of the tunnel. We were even getting quotes to decide on how to beef up my life policy and our will to include a few nominal benefits so that there would be a comprehensive trust to provide for our kids in the case of our untimely death.

Around the same time Murphy (as in Murphy’s Law) decided to visit. In fact Murphy enjoyed his visit so much that he decided to move into our guest bedroom. Month after month he extended his stay without any regard to us. Murphy just wasn’t taking the hint. Courtesy of ‘ol Murph we had a roof fire, burst water pipes in the roof (within weeks of the fire damage being repaired), multiple car breakdowns, multiple hospitalizations, a murder and a suicide, the death of my dear old dog and more burst pipes in the ceiling (just to mention a few things… there really was a lot more).  The thing about life’s little Murphy’s, in-case you haven’t noticed, is that they tend to cost money. A lot of it. And it’s usually when you’re completely out of it that ‘ol Murph then decides that your two precious bundles of joy need to play a game of flu virus ping-pong. After-all, endless bills for doctors visits and medication are just the perfect gift when you’re trying to scrape together money for fuel to get to work.

We barely clawed our way through the last 2 months of 2011 with no birthday present for Katherine and no Christmas presents. Truth be told it was a lot worse than that. I borrowed money from a work colleague for fuel and Jude (my firstborn) was running around barefoot not because of the Hot African December summertime, but because there was no money for shoes. The credit cards were maxed-out. The new year (2012) started with a lot of anxiety as we had to process the reality that our monthly expenses now consistently exceeded our monthly income. If you’ve been (or maybe you are) in that spot, then you’ll know that it doesn’t leave you feeling like a ray of sunshine. You don’t wake up in the morning with a desire to visit a pet shop just to play with a box full of kittens. You wake up anxious… depressed… fearful… Sapped of motivation you crawl out of bed. By the time you’ve made it out the back-door you’re already grumpy, short-tempered. My precious family was no longer getting the attentive, supportive, encouraging, playful and strong Husband/Father that they were supposed to have.

What are we going to do?

Hindsight is 20/20

In hindsight when the disasters were happening we should never have relied on those evil plastic credit cards to make up the difference. We told ourselves, “don’t worry, it will all be OK next month. Next months pay will cover this and in a couple of months we’ll be back on track.” There are a few problems with that attitude.

  1. Life happens. We’re not in heaven. You don’t know that nothing will go wrong next month. No need to be fearful about next month, but we should be realistic. Next month is not the month where suddenly there will be world peace, 100% employment, 0% crime, 0% road accidents, the end of poverty and the discovery of the cures for cancer, AIDS and childhood obesity. Oh yes… and the end of stupidity.
  2. You should never put off solving a problem that can be easily solved now. Before you know it you’re facing 73 problems and a overwhelming situation where it’s much tougher to think clearly and cope.
  3. It ignores compound interest – an incredibly destructive yet fiercely misunderstood force.

By keeping a fatalistic attitude month after month we started 2012 with the nasty surprise that even if next month is OK it no longer matters. Our minimum required debt repayments had tipped the budget over. When our first disaster in 2011 hit we should have clamped down on monthly expenses immediately. We should have cut the fluff from our budget immediately. We should have delayed instant gratification. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t living it up or anything, we just didn’t see the problem for what it was.

So we scrutinized our monthly budget looking for some fat to cut off but it was too late; the combined minimum payments due on each account had become so bloated that even after cutting out large chunks of spending our budget did not balance. It was time to get creative and think out the box. Time to find a new perspective on how we spend our money.

What about that cup of coffee from the beginning?

Back to that R889.60 cup of coffee. Being someone that likes numbers, I decided to start by quantifying the potential real cost of our debt. I wanted to know in the long run how much was this debt (especially the credit cards) were really going to cost me. Prior to all these disasters we had once already worked hard at cutting back to pay off credit cards and clothing accounts, and faced with this situation once again, except now with 2 children I was beginning to think that our only solution would be to get a few more credit cards,  open a few more clothing accounts and then essentially juggle the debt around. After-all that’s how governments do it. It would be so easy. After-all I get offered a credit almost once a week by some telemarketer;

“Hello Mr Henry … Fine thank you for asking … I’m excited to let you know that YOU’ve been SPECIALLY pre-approved for a GOLD/PLATINUM credit card…. blah  blah… loyalty program… blah blah … Frequent Flier Miles …. blah blah… essentially free banking… blah blah… FREE blah with BLAH BLAH and up to 15% discounts at BLAH BLAH. When would you like to take delivery of your new GOLD/PLATINUM/PREMIUM card?”

Almost every week.  Standard Bank, Nedbank, Diners Club, American Express, Woolworths, Builders Warehouse, Edgars, Bradlows etc.  However I was fortunately about to discover something truly horrific when I started playing around with the numbers.



Assuming that I just shrug my shoulders and made no changes to the budget and chose instead to continually accrue more credit card debt I decided to calculate what R1 of debt on my credit card at 18% interest per annum would turn into over the next 35 years. I chose 35 years because at the time 35 years would have put me at 65 years of age; the current expected retirement age in South Africa.

It turns out that R1 at 18% interest per annum compounded monthly over 35 years turns into R519.68. So it would mean that my R13.90 cup of coffee from Mugg & Bean would be setting me back R7223.55 (R13.90 x 519.68). Of course for it to be a useful number we need to factor in inflation. Ok so let’s assume an annual inflation of 6%. One rand 35 years in the future is the equivalent of R8.12 today. So then if you take that naughty R1 on a credit card over 35 years and adjust for inflation it becomes the equivalent of spending R64 right now. This meant that unless our budget had a radical change then the real value (i.e. adjusted for inflation) of a cup of coffee bought on my credit card is R889.60 (R13.90 x 64). Would you pay R889.60 ($105) for a cup of coffee?

Looking back the idea of buying any small item on a credit card seems ridiculous. How did this happen? A few years ago we were hi-jacked while I had a large amount of cash on me. Subsequent to that I decided to no longer carry cash. Since debit cards were virtually non-existent and expensive to swipe I opted for the credit card. At first I was really disciplined and deposited money into the card in advance so there was always a positive balance. And of course there was the loyalty program associated with the credit card. Over time however the balances slowly moved into the negative and eventually through compounded monthly interest, ill-discipline and life’s little Murphy’s, it (actually it was 3 credit cards) all got maxed out.

We’re not alone

I wonder if I can finance a shiny new space ship?

Our attitude was a reflection of our culture. Pay later for something you want/need now because tomorrow you’ll magically become a millionaire who can afford it. After-all you really deserve whatever it is that you’re buying. Personal debt is pandemic. One study in the States found the city of Sloux Falls was the American city with the least amount of credit card debt; that being R27568 per person. That is alarming. I couldn’t find any similar stats for South Africa but in 2011 it was estimated that 46.4% of the 18.6 million people who have recorded debt in South Africa were more than 3 months arrear in their payments. This figure of course doesn’t reflect loans between friends and family or illegal loan sharks. This is very worrying in a country where half the population is unemployed. It means that almost every working South African has credit (half of which are not honoring their agreements).

This of course means the reason everyone else seems to have nicer cars/houses/gadgets/holidays/furniture is that they haven’t actually bought any of it. It seems that most people have become victims of great marketing campaigns and envy. Will Rogers once said “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”


Going forward

The future is looking good

The revelation that every R1 that makes it onto a credit card and doesn’t get paid off will be R64 when I am 65 changed our perspective on how we

  1. Decide what makes it onto our budget
  2. Actually spend our money


Everything on our budget I started multiplying by 64.  It turned out that I was ultimately paying the lady who did our ironing twice a week more than my salary. The same with our date nights out eating a starter, meal and dessert with drinks + baby sitting. There were suddenly many line items on our budget that didn’t seem that important anymore. There was another benefit to multiplying everything by 64 (well actually another 2 benefits if you count the additional mental exercise required to actually multiple things by 64 in your head); Impulse spending almost completely dried up. That quick “harmless” and “cheap” can of coke you desperately need to quench your thirst is no longer R8, OH NO it is now suddenly R512. Suddenly I wasn’t so thirsty, I no longer craved chocolate and tap WATER became my new favorite drink. Bye-bye Nescafe Gold, Jacobs and Douwe Eg *something or another* and hello Ricoffee.

You might think this is a little radical and over-the-top. I started saying “No” to all kinds of things. In fact some made fun of me. I even got the nick-name Kenny (apparently the poor kid from South Park who always dies). Many said to me things like “You can’t live like that. You have to have some fun. I’d rather be in debt than not be able to XYZ”. Other’s said “but Gareth, in 10 years time you will be earning much more than you earn now. You will have more experience and be at the top of your game in your career”. Those people are right. But in 10 years time I don’t want all of my increase to be spent servicing compound interest while barely paying off debt. I want to be enjoying that increased income. I want to be giving a non-sensical amount of it away and enjoying my surplus with my family all while sleeping really well at night with no concerns about bills.

Did we like that it meant taking a knock in our lifestyle? No. Do we like that it has meant we’re no longer having a regular date night that includes baby sitting, a nice steak, a starter and a dessert followed by a movie. No. It is not nice. Do I like that it means that many months after it’s release I still do not own a copy of the much anticipated Diablo III?

But I have a greater dislike. I shudder to imagine reaching 65 years of age and having millions upon millions of rands in debt with a pension that is primarily used to cover repayments. I shudder at the thought of not been able to leave an inheritance not only for my children, but for my children’s children as well. So 64 is a number I’ve gotten intimate with.


My new friend, the 64 times table.

So, if you find your debt increasing every month then meditate on the following:

Item Current Cost Real Cost (x64)
Plastic shopping bag R0.39 R24.96
Small slab of chocolate R8.99 R575.36
Cup of Coffee R13.90 R889.60
McDonalds Sausage Egg McMuffin breakfast with free coffee R14.90 R953.60
3 Boerie Rolls for family after doing monthly shopping R60.00 R3840.00
Jar of Jacobs Coffee R84.00 R5376.00
Diablo III R450.00 R28800.00
Monthly cost of a maid ironing clothes once a week R500.00 R32000.00


Assumptions:Current Age 30, Retirement 65, Credit Card Interest 18%, Inflation 6%
*If you’re 25 years old then your current multiplier is +-115
**If you’re 40 years old then your current multiplier is +-20


I am super grateful that I don’t smoke.

There were some big item amounts that I couldn’t remove altogether. Such as travel expenses (about R4000 before multiplying), and groceries. So we got creative. I spent the year car-pooling whenever possible (cutting about R2000 a month), we started buying our meat in bulk every second month, purchased almost all our fresh produce through a farmers market co-op. We started manually processing medical claims instead of letting doctors or pharmacists process claims (in most cases this saves you a lot). Voila and hey Presto!!! Our budget is now not only balancing, but we’ve been paying off our debt with a Vengeance. As of last month we have no consumer debt what-so-ever. 3 cards paid off, clothing accounts closed, medical bills paid and a list of various people who were owed a couple hundred all sorted. This took less than 10 months. Best of all, during this time we bought a 2nd-hand freezer with cash (to store the bulk meat), and cash-flowed a few small Murphy incidents.

I sit here now on the last day of 2012 filled with wonder and excitement. We’ve just had the most lavish Christmas and as of about 2 weeks after paying off the last credit card I’m now working as an independent contractor earning significantly more than I was. The above paragraphs will never adequately bring across the pain and the joy of reaching this point. The pain of saying no to everything, and the JOY of realizing that I didn’t actually pay R889.60 for a cup of bad coffee because in the end that January cup was only financed over 10 months and not 35 years. (So I paid R15.29 instead of R13,90 in case you’re wondering.)

How much is your coffee costing you? Perhaps I’ll share some tips, secrets, convictions and strategies employed to persevere through this journey to financial peace.


1826 Days

30 Jan
My beautiful wife

Katherine, my beautiful wife

I love my wife so dearly. There is so much about her that captivates me. The 20 January marked our 5th wedding anniversary. I like to think of it as 1826 days of awesomeness. I list the actual number of days for 2 reasons.

  1. It’s one of those quirky things that I do
  2. More importantly, a strong marriage over time is dependent on the things we do on a daily basis.


When preparing for our wedding we decided to write our own vows to each other. While doing so I had a picture in my mind of how I wanted our relationship to look, not just on our honeymoon, but after 50 or God-willing even 90 years of doing life together. Mark Driscoll puts it nicely when he says that “Getting married is easy. 50 years of joy is hard.” A very true statement.

My marriage is something I take really serious and I like to think that the vows I made to Katherine on the 20 January 2007 reflect it. Because of this, I revisit my vows every few months to rate myself. Here they are:

“These are my vows to you Katherine, the only girl that has ever captivated me. I vow:

To love you

"To love you, love you and love you some more."

To love and cherish you, to respect and adore you. To hold you by my side and not beneath or behind me. To lavish everything on you that I can, and then some more. To always try and understand you. To know you, your heart, your passions and your and dreams. To never withhold my thoughts and dreams. To allow my heart to break, for the same things that break your heart. To have hands and arms that are a safe place and refuge. To have the best hugs, and a heart that beats “You are mine”. To build a life that has eternal value. To show you understanding, wisdom, justice and grace. To cultivate your gifts, calling and view of life. To not only share but give you and our future family the biggest portion of myself. To build you up. To speak truth in love. To present you to God in intercession, by myself and with you. To always challenge our thoughts and paradigms as I find treasure in the word of God. To worship together. To pray together. To make our home a place of peace and joy. To protect you. To fight for you. To pursue you. To boast about you. To be a great lover. To be a great father. And an even better friend. To be tender and gentle, caring and loving, full of humility, strength and compassion. Playful and passionate, bold and patient, to stare into your eyes always captivated. To make you feel like a princess. To make you tea, to rub your feet, to dance with you and spin you around. To hold your hand, to make you laugh, to Hold you tight, and kiss you goodnight. To love you, love you and love you some more.”


The reason I revisit them every few months is because in the mundane of life it is easy to stop putting in effort. It is easy to stop telling your wife that you love her. In the context of bills, insurance contracts, administration, laundry, hours in the traffic and parenting little children who are completely dependent on you it is inconvenient to allow yourself to be captivated by the wonderfully mysterious heart and mind of your wife.

Revisiting my vows is a vital barometer to me because I listed so many specific things in it. In the everyday mundane it is easy to forget to do something simple like taking the time  to just stare into Katherine’s eyes and be captivated. When so much has been happening in my own career over the last few years it is easy to not talk about Katherine’s dreams and desires. With little kids eating, pooping, crawling and jumping around all day it can become easy to let the most important aspect of parenting slide; that being your marriage. The primary way our kids are going to learn about how to treat their future spouses one day will be in how they see Katherine and I relate to each other.

Are we explosive when it comes to disagreements? Is one of us a push over? Are we selfish with our time, or do we pour into each other. Jude (age 25 months) and Benjamin (9.5 months) are very perceptive. They don’t miss a thing. Is Katherine happier when I arrive home? Am I overwhelmed with joy and passion at that first glimpse of my wonderful wife when I arrive home?

So how has our first 5 years been?

In a few short words… Wonderful, challenging, adventurous, painful, encouraging, life changing.

I love my wife. I love her more each year. She is my standard of beauty and every other woman I know falls woefully short. I’m continually challenged by the depth of her love for people, despite some of the unbelievable rejection she has faced. Whenever I think I’ve sorted out any prejudices in my own heart, I only need to watch my wife interact with the next down-and-out individual thrown in her path to realise that I’m still travelling a long journey of embracing people just as they are. I never tire of our stimulating conversations as I get to bounce ideas off her. Ok… so maybe I often get annoyed with her when she just won’t budge on a differing opinion… but I love that as well. Katherine will never just nod at something I say. She’ll engage me back on any topic, often revealing some gaping flaws in my thinking.

Then there is her boldness and bravery. You’ll often hear me say that I didn’t marry a nice girl. I married a world changer. Katherine is loving and compassionate, but she is not nice. There is far too much that I want to accomplish in my life; and so I knew I could never marry a “nice” girl. My wife is a lioness, and she thrives when I let out the lion in me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying people who marry “nice” girls have somehow settled for less. I just know my own nature and personality. If I had settled down with a “nice” girl then that would have been the last significant thing I ever did. I would just have “settled down” and just gone with the flow of life. No, I wanted a never ending adventure with someone with whom “settling down” would never be an option and I’ve most certainly not been disappointed. Everything about the way we do life screams out “we will not go with the grain.” We will not bow down to popular culture. We will not copy paste the previous generation with a few modernised twists. Everything we do, gets looked at from a fresh perspective and starts with the question “why?”.

Then of course is Katherine’s ability to make tough decisions and stick with them despite rejection and condemnation from the world. Katherine finished high school with bursary options to do everything from metallurgy to professional singing. She is an accomplished artist, and reads music. She once did three years of law-school all in one year (while been married) and yet she has chosen not to bow to the pressure of pursueing a career. Am I a rich sugar daddy? No. Katherine’s decision to stay at home with the kids has cost her immensely and has left us with no budget at all for things like makeup and new clothes. Her decision is not a popular one and is one that get’s ridiculed by popular media. Katherine however goes from strength to strength and excels.

Coming back to my wedding vows. 5 years ago I made a covenant,  a promise to lay down my life to make Katherine’s better. I’ve received great joy and a lot of growth in the process but the fact is that 5 years is just the beginning. Marriage is not a sprint, it is a marathon, and one that we intend on finishing strong. So I resolve again just as I do every few months to be the man behind the heart of what was vowed on that wonderful day 5 years ago.

Kiss me

Kiss me


The cost of convenience

13 Jan

"Damn.. forgot the dip. Now I have to get up again."

In my previous adventure, searching for milk after hours, I concluded that supermarkets and 24 hour convenience stores don’t sell goods. They sell convenience.

The basic principle that was illustrated in my previous article when comparing milk prices was that the greater the convenience the greater the cost of an item. This got me thinking about the cost of convenience not just in the monetary sense but in general.

So much of our society revolves around convenience. In fact I would go as far as to say our society worships convenience. Convenience has so pervasively invaded our culture that we’re largely oblivious to it. I’m often surprised at how many financially struggling couples and individuals don’t do things like get milk from a dairy, or join up with a group of people to buy meat in bulk directly from a farmer, or attempt a veggie garden, or (God-forbid) not have a DSTV subscription. For Katherine and I, changing from a single income to a duel income would be extremely helpful, but it is a line we’re simply not prepared to cross (perhaps I can convince Katherine to co-write a blog entry with me about why we’re not prepared to cross it ). We’ve had to forego many conveniences and even so we currently find ourselves drowning in bills. Every other month we experiment with a new idea to save money. As I write this our pantry is stocked with preserves from our garden’s most recent harvest.

Convenience is well… convenient. But it costs. Especially when convenience becomes so pervasive that it creates a cultural standard of ‘get-just-what-you-want-when-you-want-it-just-like-you-want-it’. Of course I’m not just referring to the warehouses of cash that young people could be saving towards their dreams, homes, skills development and future pension plans just by making a few simple changes in how they buy their groceries and entertain themselves. I’m referring to the ripple-effect this has on life in general.

In particular here are some of the sobering thoughts rattling in the part of my brain situated somewhere between my what’s-for-lunch-cortex and my need-more-power-tools-longata:

Relational Cost: If a relationship stops being convenient we just chuck it away. Healthy enduring friendships, marriages and work interactions are not things we put work into. We don’t review our conflict resolution skills (if we even have any). It is very easy to adopt a ‘stuff-you’ attitude whenever someone confronts us on an issue.

Health Cost: If exercise is not convenient (and let’s face it… it’s not… especially if it’s not a natural talent and passion of yours) we just let our bodies go to waste. If cooking is not convenient we just get another round of takeaway’s that on its own can exceed our daily calorie requirements with very little, if any, of our nutritional requirements.

Mental Cost: Vegging on the couch in front of the TV is more convenient that engaging your spouse. TV is far more convenient than playing a board game, or doing an old fashion family sing-a-long (ok that might be awkward if none of you are musically inclined). It’s far easier to pay someone/something else to entertain our children without thinking about what values they/it might be imparting to them while we let our brains slip into a mindless stupor.

Political Cost: Even if we bother to vote it is most likely based on shallow perceptions/prejudices inherited from out parents or friends and not based on a solid convictions to vote for a party that stands for your values. You’re in this boat if you’ve never compared manifesto’s of different parties.

Future-leaders Cost: It’s inconvenient to teach your children to be critical thinkers and far more convenient to let them receive the sub-standard; one-size-fits-all government approved curriculum that seeks to create a lemming population that can be easily controlled and coerced into apathy. Lest I be accused of being racist let me clarify that I’m not only referring to the current education in South Africa but also specifically the education I received under apartheid and my pre OBE matric. That’s right, I believe my 1999 Matric certificate with exemption and all seven  subjects on HG was a 12 year waste of my time and potential.

Destiny Cost: Do we sacrifice and withhold instant gratification from ourselves to attain our dreams or do we become just another dissatisfied, grumpy desk jockey, slowly letting our souls die a little more each day? The kind of person who has a weekly TGIF mantra. If all you’re living for is Friday… then you’re not living.

Abundant Life Cost: This is the most important one if you’re a Christian. How you pursue God (or whatever it is that you worship) will greatly impact all of the above. Are you part of a convenient commercialised church that just peddles some conscience soothing words? Or perhaps you’re slightly better than that. You proudly boast that you’re part of an awesome bible preaching church that plants churches and has powerful outpourings of the spirit when the truth is you’re completely dependent on the words of a charismatic preacher, who has pre-chewed the revelation for you so that you only need to swallow without ever seeking after God yourself. Without testing what has been taught to you. Without taking any responsibility for your faith. Do you know lots about God without actually knowing or spending time with him? Maybe getting together with any believers on a regular basis is just not convenient for you and so you rely on a favourite spiritual website and you occasional debate spiritual things on some forums… when you FEEL LIKE IT.

Paul, the apostle, encourages us to move past the foundations of our faith. To get off “milk” and onto “solids”.  Yet so many Christians are unaware of the foundations that Paul lists. It would seem that much of the modern church relies on skimmed-skinny-soy-milk revelation fed to them by someone else that leaves them with a type of spiritual-anaemia and an inability to digest deep meaty chunks of revelation.

It’s not convenient having quiet times. It’s not convenient stilling yourself to wait upon God. It’s not convenient meditating on the hard truths. It’s not convenient having to look up the original Hebrew or Greek to try clarify an obscure cultural phrase whose meaning is lost in the English translation. It’s not convenient having to change your position on something controversial when your personal view is different from what God is telling you. It’s not convenient having to forgive someone who has wronged you. It’s not convenient being the primary servant in your household (i.e. the bible’s version of being a husband).

When we live for and only engage things that are convenient we start becoming self entitled. Life becomes about instant-gratification and this is extremely dangerous for a Christian. You see, a self-entitled convenience seeker ultimately is concerned only about what feels good in the moment. The book of proverbs puts it rather bluntly when it tells us that a backslider is bored with himself.

So what can we do to make sure we don’t become slaves to convenience?

Dealing with Ourselves

If you are someone who is fortunate enough to have iron will-power then I guess it’s a matter of identifying a few things you want to change and simply putting changes into action. For the rest of us mere mortals it’s a little more tricky.

My first step is to be honest with myself as I meditate on the potential above mentioned costs. I.e Am I happy with the state of relationships in my life? My health? My mental fixations when I relax? Political involvement? How my children are taught? Am I moving towards my ‘destiny’? Am I experiencing the kind of abundant life that Jesus talks about? Is my heart still desperately captivated and obsessed with God’s tangible presence? Are Jesus’ thoughts and words still honey to my lips? Do I still grow feint with love for God? Does my faith move me to action? Am I rebelling against my own indifference? Am I perpetually moved to speak out for the voiceless? Am I reaching people with the good news of what Jesus has done for them?

My answers to the above questions and others I’ve evaluated vary. My second step is to focus in on the ones I’m least happy about. In my case they’re not necessarily the ones that had the worst answers. It can be overwhelming to come up with a plan to change 23 aspects of your daily life. So I’m choosing just two.

  1. To have at least 366 quiet times this year. After all there is nothing more exhilarating, nothing more breath taking and life changing than communing with the Father. In the past I’ve found that when my relationship with God is tight, then everything else seems to come together far better and with far less effort.
  2. To work out at least 3 times a week. I’m seriously tired of weighing over 100kg’s. The belly must go and the abs must come forth. Physically fit people have better mental stamina and sleep better. Letting my body go out of shape in a sense is an insult to God’s craftsmanship.

My third and final step to aid in this endeavour is accountability. I’ve chosen a friend with whom I have regular contact with. Every time he has seen me this year he has asked ‘How are the quiet times?’ We are meeting 3 times a week at 5am (how’s that for inconvenient) to work out together. I’ve installed reminders on my tablet to aid with the quiet times and so far my wife is very pleased with the Gareth that better resembles the one she married.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways

Helping the next generation

I need to make sure that my children don’t inherit entitlement attitudes due to any conveniences that are made available to them. I must make sure that when my children start managing their own budgets (which is hopefully before they start their careers) that they are taught not to fall for clever marketing slogans. I must help them understand frugal alternatives. Even if it introduces some inconvenience back into my life to take them shopping at a farmers market… or helping them with their first veggie garden. I say this because children do what you do, not what you say. I must make sure they understand what are the luxury items in our household.

If in the future we end up being a well-off family where Jude can get a new pair of puma’s every six months I must make sure that he understands that it is a privilege and not a right. I must model good stewardship in my own drinking and eating habits. They must see me constantly blessing and affirming Katherine whenever she does something that I’m quite capable of doing for myself. I must indeed make sure that they see me doing those same things for her. They must see me putting conflict resolution above my own preferences. They must see me dropping my activities at a moments notice to help them. In me they must see a father who allows himself to be ravaged by the love of the Father.

At the end of my life I don’t want any area of my life to be a reflection of the couch potato image at the top of this post. I want to know that I’ve done a good job at cultivating every aspect of my life.

What will your next steps be? I’ve got my plan, have you got yours?

"No thanks, I don't need seconds"

Scriptures that come to mind

Hebrews 5:1212 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, (ESV)

Hebrews 6:1-2 1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death,[a] and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. (NIV )

Hebrews 12:1111 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (ESV)

Proverbs 13:4The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (ESV)

Proverbs 14:1414 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways. (ESV) – or -  The backslider gets bored with himself; the godly man’s life is exciting (TLB)

Proverbs 25:28A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls. (ESV)

Matthew 23:11-1211 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (ESV)

Epehesians 5:2525 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (ESV)

Psalm 119:15 - I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (ESV)


A nightmare on the street in which our home resides but whose location will remain undisclosed for privacy reasons.

12 Jan

The skies were dark and it was raining. There was an eerie feeling as our hero peeked outside. It would not be nice, but someone had to do it. Queue the music. Our hero leaps up from the couch, slips his feet into a pair of crocs, leaps with the nimbleness of an elephant from the veranda into the drive-way. With snail like reflexes he fumbles for his keys… fumbles some more… fumbles some more… … … Our hero returns into the house, locates the correct set of keys, stubs his toe, heads back out, fumbles a bit more and finally reverses down the drive way.

An eerie night

The night was eerie


The mission was clear. Katherine needed her cup of tea, but we were out of milk. I had to think quick. None of my standard peddlers of milk were available as it was after EIGHT P.M. It was a desperate situation. At this late hour I’d have to hook up with Eoss  (Engen One Stop Shop).

Open 24 Hours

I dimmed my lights as pulled up to Eoss’ spot. I was ready for the exchange. I glanced around to check that I was safe, took a deep breath, opened the car door and steped out into the rain. Eoss had just what I needed. I looked the merchandise over. Yup. This was a geniune 2 litre bottle of clover milk and all that Eoss wanted was R_5.99…. I squinted at the label. After all 5.99 couldn’t possibly be correct.

A closer look revealed the truth. Eoss would not part with anything less than R25.99.



R25.99!!! For two litres of milk.

Crying over unspilt milk


I went back home… empty handed.

Now I realise that many of you are buying 2 litres of clover milk from Checkers/Spar/PnP for about R18.00 – R20.00… the extra R6.00 – R8.00 may seem reasonable for the after hours convenience. My problem however is that we get our milk at R8.00 for just over 2 litres.

This got me thinking about degrees of convenience and what we’re actually paying for at supermarkets. The cost of milk per litre:

  • R3.99 – For the convenience of not having to own, feed, look after and milk your own cow, and then having to treat and bottle the milk. Provided you travel to a dairy outlet and provide your own bottle that you’ve had to wash out and sterilise. As a bonus they always overfill the bottle. In effect I pay for 1 litre and get +- another 100ml free
  • R5.00 – As above, except they provide the bottle.
  • +-R7.00 – As above, except a local dairy brand at your nearest supermarket.
  • R8.00-10.00 – As above, except it’s the clover brand.
  • R13.00 – Clover… at a 24 hour convenience store.


Am I saying that milk peddled by EOSS is overpriced. No. Not at all. The overheads of keeping staff around the clock 24 hours so that people who are lazy or disorganised can get something they desperately need means that R13.00 per litre is actually really reasonable. In that moment however I decided that the additional cost of the milk for a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal the next morning was not worth the extra R18.00 that the 2 litres of milk would cost me.

Now what have we learned today boys and girls? Supermarkets and 24 hour stores don’t sell goods; they sell convenience.


Finger-nails, guitars and number two’s

01 Jan
 Odd title for my first post of 2012. During 2011 I did not do a single post so hopefully this is not my only post for 2012. So what do finger-nails, number 2’s and guitars have in common? Normally nothing but at present they’re reminding me of two things Jesus once said.
Jude helping Daddy wash the car

Jude helping Daddy wash the car


As a child I hated having my finger nails cut. I squirmed and screamed, wiggled and performed, and  cried out in ‘anguish’ as my mom would cut my nails. My eldest son, Jude, however doesn’t have this same fear. This dawned on me a few days ago as I was sitting in our kitchen busy performing some overdue nail maintenance. Whilst lobbing off the chunks of keratin at the end of my fingers Jude approached me saying “Daddy cut fingers… Daddy cut Jude’s fingers, Daddy cut Jude’s fingers”’. It was then as I proceeded to cut his nails that the following revelation hit me. My Dad chewed his finger nails and so I never saw him cut his nails. Jude on the other hand was eager to have his finger nails cut when he saw what I was doing. At his current age (23 months), Jude’s childlikeness along with his relationship with me as his father (and hero) result in a desire to mimic my behaviour. It’s why Jude washes his motorbike since seeing me wash my car. It’s why he insists on playing his little guitar every single day. It’s why he sometimes first grabs one of his little books and pages through it whenever he sits on the potty to do a poo. It’s why even at such a young age he prays when we put him to bed at night. It’s why whenever he hurts himself, or drops or breaks something he says, “oh dear!!!”

Jude washing his toy motorbike

Jude washing his toy motorbike

Childlikeness then is not only a key to the kingdom of God, but a key to becoming Christ like. Childlikeness is a key for us to conquer our flesh and walk in the spirit.

So what is it that Jesus said that made me think of this? I’m referring to his statements about becoming like children and his statement that He only does what he sees the father doing. Here are the two portions of scripture.

Matthew 18:2-52 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

John 5:19-2319 Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.

Playing guitar with Daddy

Playing guitar with Daddy

In the past I’ve honestly only thought of childlikeness in terms of how I trust God. Even now Jude will leap from the side of a pool into my arms even though he knows he cannot swim on his own. My approach has been much the same when praying for the sick, baptising someone in the spirit, speaking to a large crowd or casting out demons; that is I simply trust God to be true to his word. Seeing the sick healed, or someone filled with the spirit and speaking in tongues, or watching demons manifest and leave has nothing to do with me after I’ve taken my leap. It’s all up to God. Now however I find myself wrestling with this new aspect of childlikeness that I’d not considered. I find myself now reanalysing Jesus’ behaviour as one who did what he saw His Father doing. After all Jesus perfectly lived out everything he taught. Paul (the apostle) understood these concepts of childlikeness and imitation. Paul writes:

If you happy and you know it clap your hands

If you happy and you know it clap your hands

1 Corinthians 4:14-17 - 14 I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17 For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – 11:1 - 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

In conclusion I’m asking my self a few questions;

  • What things in my life are good imitations of other solid men in Christ?
  • What things in my life are good imitations of things I’ve seen God doing?
  • Am I still imitating any ungodly men?
  • Am I spending adequate time with the Father? Imitation of someone requires intimate knowledge of them which requires quality time.


With this in mind my number one goal for 2012 is to have at least 365366 quiet times.

Jude reading on the potty

Jude reading on the potty



13 Dec

This has been a great year of improving my self-discipline. I just really really wish I could find the time to write more.

I want to start writing some childrens stories. There is a wonderful world that exists in my head and I’d like to share the joy it has brought to Katherine and I. Perhaps for 2011 I should resolve to watch almost no series and instead write.

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Things that make a father proud

11 Oct

So yesterday was another proud moment for me as a father as Jude was upgraded from his baby car seat to a bigger one.

Jude's New Car Seat 1

Jude's New Car Seat 1

As with all things fatherhood related I always reflect on how my experiences as a father compare with my understanding of God as my Father. While Jude was being buckled into his new seat I was saying things like “Wow my boy. You’re now sitting in a big boys seat. You’re such a big strong boy.” At the same time I was also soaking in every little expression on his face as he had his first experience of the new chair and facing forward for the first time.

Even though Jude had essentially done nothing, I was filled with pride, excitement and joy as I shared the moment with him. It got me thinking on what God must experience whenever I grasp a new truth or experience His provision (whether I’m aware of it or not).

There are a number of instances in the psalms where it says that God delights or takes pleasure in us. I wonder what delight God takes in me while I take delight in my son? I wonder what delight he took in my first experience of shooting a bow and arrow on Saturday? Or when I look at my wife and think about how much I love her? Or as I imagine how awesome my sandwhich for lunch will be. What about as I’m amazed by the process of the broccoli growing in my veggie garden or as I dream about the future.

As I watch Jude explore the world, attempt to climb on things, chase the cats, try say ‘Jasper’ and make all sorts of funny noises; I’m filled with delight. Even as Jude sits in the bath and splashes non stop for 20 minutes I am delighted.

How wonderful it is to be a father. How wonderful it is to know THE FATHER.

Jude's New Car Seat 2

Jude's New Car Seat 2

Psalm 22:8
“He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

Psalm 35:27
May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.”

Psalm 36:8
They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.

Psalm 37:23
If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm;

Psalm 147:11
the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Proverbs 3:12
because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

2 Samuel 22:20
He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Psalm 16:3
As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

Psalm 149:4
For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.


About… courtesy of sleeplessness

10 Oct

Couldn’t sleep. So I released version 1 of my about page. Enjoy :)

Maybe I should add a photo of myself? Done


Two things I learnt today

09 Oct

So I haven’t actually sat down and done that about page yet. Maybe I will start it after this post :)

In the mean time for your amusement here are 2 things I learnt today.

1. My dog doesn’t like peas

Jasper, my Labrador, to my surprise actually does have a discerning palate. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Jasper won’t eat peas. This is the same dog that eats tea bags, tomatoes, cat poo and trees. Even more amazing was how I discovered this. This morning I was clearing out left over food that was probably near expiring when I came across a pot with some food in it. I put the pot outside and Jasper’s tongue somehow navigated around all the food and lapped up everything except the peas.

Jasper dodges the peas

Jasper dodges the peas

2. Shooting a bow and arrow

This afternoon I got to fulfill a childhood dream of shooting a bow and arrow. I discovered recently that my pastor is the chairman of TASA (Traditional Archers of South Africa) and that he and his son spend some time every afternoon (when there aren’t summer afternoon thunderstorms) shooting arrows. After sheepishly asking him if I could shoot with them some time we organised a braai at their house. So this afternoon I learnt some technique and got to shoot with an actual traditional bow and arrow at targets. It was a lot of fun. Doing it at night in my dreams all these years has been fun, but actually doing it in reality is even better.

I loved it. All of it. Loading (not sure if that is the correct technical term) the arrow, pulling back the string, feeling the resistance, the pull of the muscles in my arms and back, focusing on the kill zone of the target, factoring in distance from the target to account for gravity, focusing on the rhythm of my breathing and the positioning of my arms etc so that I could repeat the same behavior and then finally releasing the string and watching the arrow hit its target was exhilarating.

By the end of the afternoon I walked away with one nasty welt on my left forearm from the string and able to fairly accurately hit a target repeatedly. I’ve also left with one of their extra bows, 3 arrows and an invitation to join them at their next competition. I can’t wait to construct myself a target and spend a good few solid hours building muscle memory and improving basic technique. I’m obviously not quite ready to insert 3 arrows at the same time to take out some orcs :)

Feeling too tired now to do that about page. Goodnight. *yawn*


Please pay your rent

18 Sep

If you are a tenant on someone elses property then this post is directed at you.


I happen to own a flat. I’ve fought tooth and nail to hold on to this property. It is an investment. Owning it means that every month I have to pay the mortgage on it as well as levy fees, water and lights etc. After I receive rent for it I still have a shortfall of between R1000 and R2000 that I need to pay in depending on how much electricity the tenant has used and what the current interest rate is.

It is fairly important that I get this rental income because the mortgage payment goes off on a debit order (as do all my other financial commitments) not leaving me with enough money to pay for groceries / travel expenses. My tenant however is a problem tenant. She has not paid the last 2 months and has managed to rack up 2 really high water and lights bills.

Lucky for me 2 minute noodles are cheap and we planted a vegetable garden recently that is now providing me with what I call “three leaf salad”; lettuce, spinach and rocket. Also through careful planning I can work from home twice a week (which saves me around +- R150 per week in travel expenses).

My point is this… if you irresponsibly spend your money on big screen tv’s and lounge suites at the begining of the month instead of paying your rent first THEN DON”T BE SURPRISED WHEN YOUR LAND LORD CUTS OFF YOUR POWER AND STARTS PERSUING LEGAL ACTION AGAINST YOU!!!!

Perhaps if I wasn’t so nice this wouldn’t happen to me. This is the second tenant that has done this. In the 12 months that the current tenant has been renting from me she has never paid on time… and seems to live by a philosophy that goes something like “Rent is only for the months when the land lord actually asks for it, otherwise its free”.

Sadly South African law doesn’t allow me to evict her without a lengthy legal procedure that will cost me more. So now I find myself thinking how do I get her out without breaking the law. On top of that I’m the one now stuck having to figure out creative ways of finding money for my sons nappies, my wife’s prenatal vitamins, food for our table, fuel for my car, food for the dog and cats and whatever else I can’t think of right now.

Please, if you are a tenant pay your bills first and live off the rest. Just because your land lord is a property owner doesn’t mean they have money to burn. I don’t own a flat screen tv. I drive a golf 1 (designed as an entry level car in the 70′s). I have no pension or provident fund. Half my socks and underwear should probably no longer be worn.

So does anyone have any creative legal ideas on how to make a tenant leave without having to incur legal costs?


Posted in Finance, Rant