My husband had to travel in to NYC for the evening for a dinner appointment...so the kids and I were flying solo for dinner last night. When my husband is away, dinner is usually either take out or breakfast: pancakes, cereal, french toast....I personally could east breakfast for every meal. Anyway, I had to take Luke to piano lessons and Ben chimed in and asked if on the way home, we could get take-out. (He knows the drill as well and likes to know what is coming next......ummm does he get that from me??)
As much as I didn't really want to make dinner last night....I had to tell Ben no. Trust me, my mind had already gone to take-out.....but we are turning a new corner around here. I told Ben, we weren't getting take out tonight because it is the end of the month and there isn't money. He looked at me with a confused face, as that response is not usually one he gets....can you see where I'm going here.
A household budget.......
For those of you who have household budgets that you are able to adhere to.....I am in awe of you and inspired by you. I have a lot to learn and God is dealing with me graciously.
Here's what has happened. We are all facing tighter times. Our oil prices this year have doubled. Last year I could pay $100 a month on the budget plan to fill our oil tank, to heat our house, this year that monthly payment is $200. The same goes for putting gas in our cars. We have a little reprieve right now, but not holding tightly that those gas prices will stick around for long. Food prices have gone up.....feeding 4 growing boys and a little girl tends to add up, not to mention clothing my crew. We are all feeling the same pinches......some of us more than others. I know many people being severely stretched financially right now with husbands being laid off, the self-employed struggling to find construction bids, family who is sick and unable to work etc... As the global financial markets have plummeted, people have lost thousands in the stock market. Times are tough financially. It seems like that one world economy isn't too far in the distant future....a cashless society.
That Satan is in the mix of it all really gets me. I know it is all leading up to our Jesus coming back and taking His church home. Trust me....I can't wait for that day....come, Lord Jesus...come. I can't wait to be worshipping God in heaven and holding my son again. But today...God is calling me to be a good steward of all that He has given. Today, I need to be responsible with what He has called me to. I need to be accountable to what I spend on food, on clothing, on the children...on running this house. It is no different than the manager who oversees a whole department and is in charge of the budget for that department. If you are in the red....you are losing money and not managing properly....over time....you are in big trouble.
Mind you, I am not a saver by nature....but I am always looking for a good bargain to save money. Barclay will chuckle at the fact that I won't shop at Linens N Things without a 20% coupon...and if I get to the store and forgot the coupon....well back home I go to get it (crazy...I know!). I don't usually buy anything full price....because I just can't justify the price tag knowing that at some point, it will be on sale. I shop consignment stores for the kids. I sell Faith's clothes on Ebay and then use that the money I make to buy her clothes for the next season. I love Marshall's and TJMaxx....always discounted! I am usually a practical spender and have to think through how much use each item will get and I will definitely shop around for the best price! Give me a coupon and you've got my business. But the trouble is....I do like to shop. A sale really doesn't matter if you don't need the item to begin with. That seems to be my trouble. Buying to bring some sort of satisfaction or fulfillment.....when I should only be buying what I need and no more. All of this stuff will some day fade away, get old, get broken, be out of style, get a hole in the knee......be gone. I desire to be content. It is a choice to be content.
"Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money if a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Well, this weekend, Barclay and I sat down to do the budget. We have "done" the budget many times before....actually added up over the 14 years of our marriage....we've tried many different scenarios: I've done it myself. I become overwhelmed. I ask him to manage the money. His time is already spread thin. We try it together, but no one really oversees it regularly....and we end up spending more than we should. We fall away from any real budget and just try to stay in the "loosely" held amounts for each area. It is really the miscellaneous money I am talking about here....not the money that goes toward set bills.About 2-3 years ago, we began moving away from credit cards completely and into a debit card only. I can't tell you how wonderful this move alone is. But the problem has been that if we overspend, we take the money from savings. Not really that wise. And sooner or later, the savings account isn't what it was in the beginning.
Did I mention I was a writing major in college......math and science are far from my area of wisdom and expertise. God is so working on me in this area right now. What it really comes down to for me...is discipline and obedience.
But back to the cashless society.......what a trick by Satan. I have found that when I don't actually watch the money leave my hand and have to place it in the cashier's hand.....when I don't see the amount of money decrease in my wallet......I overspend. That is the trick by Satan and lures us into credit cards. Spending what we can't actually see and don't really have. When I'm not using cash and not watching the money regularly, I forget that I spent "way too much" at Target. I forget that I spent more than I should have on groceries. I forget that at the beginning of the month I bought myself some new clothes. I forget that we already had take-out too many times that month. By the end of the month, I've overspent.
But when I use cold, hard cash and watch the money dwindle.....I stop spending....because when it is gone, it is gone. My younger sister, Tasha, has used this system for a long time and as much as I wanted it to work...and it did when I used it, but then I would fall into my old ways and whip out that debit card...and fall back into the same sin cycle of overspending. Indulging instead of restraining.
Well, God has been convicting my heart of our finances for awhile. It is an area that I haven't really wanted to address and an area that I have only half given him. Partial obedience is really disobedience. I have been disobedient in not being a good steward of His money. All that we have is God's. It is all a gift from Him. He is the ultimate provider. He has blessed my husband with a wonderful job, but my hope cannot be in my husband's job. My hope has to be in God alone because tomorrow, my husband's job could be gone. Jesus is my hope. I have to trust Him that He will give the manna we need for today. Just like the Israelites, I can't hoard the manna and store it for tomorrow because then it is in my own strength. Then I am not trusting Him and relying on Him fully. Tomorrow's manna will rot. God says:
So, beginning this Friday, we are embarking on a new household budgeting system. My husband and I prayed together this weekend about it. We are giving it to God. We are committed to spending only what we have and staying within the budget. We are using cash for all of our miscellaneous purchases. Kind of like a weekly allowance system. We have set up separate bank accounts for groceries only, bills only, savings and then cash for miscellaneous needs like clothing, birthday presents, take-out, etc....I pray that God will give me the discipline I need so desperately to be obedient. I pray that as we tend to our finances and give them all to God that He will do the work and He will be glorified.
I pray that God also gets our first fruits. That we give to Him all that is due Him in our tithes and our offerings. It is built into the budget. Our finances, our money....it is all His. I am excited about the changes in our household. As with everything, I can't do it in my own strength, only through Him...but I must choose today whom I will serve. I must choose today to spend wisely, to save wisely and to be faithful with everything He has blessed us with.
I would love to hear from you if you have a budget and system that really works for your family. I believe this is such an area of our lives where we dishonor God and my heart cries out for that to change. That God would be honored in everything.
Change is always good.
In His hands, Stacy