Glenn and I have started a new chapter in our lives. It’s an exciting one and I wanted to share it with everyone. It has to do with our finances. I know money is one of those things people don’t want to talk about because it brings up strong emotions, usually ones of despair, because our finances are not going the way we would like, i.e. we don’t make enough money. I bet there are few people out there who feel they do make all the money they need, I know we didn’t feel that way. Having 8 people in our household and only one parent working, makes for challenging financial times. We never felt like we had enough money and thought, “if we could just make ____ amount of money we would be good.” Then we would get a raise and still not feel like we had enough. At the beginning of this year, I was tired of worrying about money. I was the one responsible for paying the bills each month and made most of the financial decisions despite the fact that it is not my skill set. I am not a details person and not very organized, so I was really frustrated when doing our finances. I would try to set up a budget and then fail to follow through with keeping good records of what we spent and then blow the budget. I would feel like a failure and then stop trying and really blow the budget. It was a war of me versus the budget every month. I was tired of feeling that way and not being in control of our finances and I knew it was my fault and I needed to make some changes, or better yet WE as a couple needed to make some changes. So, I started reading some books. I read all of the books Dave Ramsey has written and some of the Larry Burkett books. All were very helpful and I highly recommend them. It has revolutionized the way we view our finances and has brought hope and peace to our household. So, I wanted to share some of what we learned so that others might have this same hope and peace.
1. All we have financially or otherwise is God’s and He is allowing us to use it for His glory and work, and as a result we should be good stewards of what we have. I heard this concept my whole life but never really acting like it was true. In church circles, we like to say that God owns all our finances so that when we are out of money because we have made poor choices God is obligated to come rescue us because it is His money and he has to care for our “needs”. I thought that if I made my tithe every pay check that was a security against any financial hardships and I could then do whatever I wished with the rest of the money and He would fill in the gaps. This is not Biblical. The Bible is clear about God expecting us to tithe to our local church (10%) and then also that we are to be good stewards of the other 90%. What does that really mean? Well it means we need to listen to God in what He wants us to do with that 90% and not just he 10%. If you ask Him, He will direct you to give when He wants you to. He expects us to be obedient in what He asks us to do even if it is difficult. And if we are, He will make sure our “needs” are provided for. “Needs” are not “wants”. We “need” very few things in life , really. It’s really not about what you do with every penny you make, it’s about a heart attitude. Do we realize that God owns all we have, and as such we shouldn’t worry about what happens to it? If I am being obedient to all God has asked of me and being as responsible as I know how with my money, then I don’t have to worry about what may come in life because all I have is God’s and it’s His problem. God knows exactly what we need, when we need it, although it may not be when we want it.
2. God providing for our needs does not happen by money falling out of the sky into our hands. God has provided us with the ability to work and make the money we need. He expects us to use common sense and get a job to provide for our needs. He also has laid out some principles in scripture that will help us make the best use of our money.
3. Get on a budget. EWWW! I said the “b” word. Nobody likes that word because it brings up bad thoughts. Budgets don’t have to be that way. Glenn and I have started working on a zero based budget and it’s really pretty simple. At the beginning of each month we have a meeting and discuss what we know will be expenses for that month. For example, in August we know the kids will need school supplies so we decided how much money we think that will cost and continue on through our budget categories until each dollar has been put into a category. We intentionally save money each month and are working toward paying off some debt now simply because we use a budget. At the end of the month, if you don’t have any money left in the budget you simply go without. I have been limiting my driving this week because we have no more money in this months budget and still have one more day this month. You don’t blow your budget because you don’t allow yourself to. You simply go without or plan better. Every time I buy something I ask myself if I truly need this thing? You will find you don’t need as much as you think. Is this easy? No. Does it take sacrifices? Yes. But I am now in control of where my money is going. It’s not controlling me. We have long-range goals and that feels really good.
4. Get out of debt! The bible has many verses about borrowing money and none of them are positive. God is plainly telling us that debt is not good for us. Is it a sin? No. But it’s clear to me that if we are wise we will eliminate our debt. Glenn and I are working really hard to do this and making some great sacrifices to make headway in paying off debt. We are mad at the debt! We want it gone! We do not want to be slave to it anymore. Our goal is that in 7 years we will be debt free, including our house! That is not just a pie in the sky idea, we have a plan for how to achieve that. Can you imagine not having any payments on cars, loans, credit cards or the house? Imagine what you could do with that money. It is achievable, you have to want it and attack that debt. That is where the peace and hope comes in. In 7 years, if we can achieve our goal of being debt free, we will be able to live on very little and that feels really good. If God forbid something where to happen with Glenn’s job, we would be fine. And that brings a lot of peace.
5. It’s the little things. You have to watch the little purchases. They add up and use up a lot of your money. It’s the attitude of I deserve this fast food or little treat. Or I worked so hard I deserve to buy myself this whatever. We “deserve” nothing, it’s God’s money. But if we are wise with our money, we can have peace and security in Him. The other day I was going to Walmart and knew I had $50 to spend. I was watching carefully what I bought and the last thing on my list was a toothbrush. It was going to put me over the $50. It’s a toothbrush, I mean really. I need that, right? Well, I didn’t buy it. I came home and asked Glenn, who was going to the dentist the next day to pick up one of the free toothbrushes they have there in the bathroom. Yes, it’s the little things. I saved $1 on my toothbrush, but it’s the principle of being resourceful and sticking to your budget. The budget you agree upon with your spouse is like a written contract. If you break that contract by overspending then you are a liar. That is harsh! I read that in one of the books and it really hit home with me.
If you are serious about changing how you handle money, it will change your life! I feel so much better now that we have a plan and know where our money is going. Our future is going to be secure and we are planning for a rainy day, because it will come. But when they do, we don’t have to worry because we have made a plan for how to handle them, and we know the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.