When God Has Other Plans

I can proudly (which may be part of the problem) say with God’s grace and wisdom my husband and I are making great progress in reducing our debt and tightening up our spending.

Each year for the several years we have sat down and figured out what we would do with our income tax return each of us having a list and then comparing it and coming to an agreement.  The past few years have led to more responsible things like eliminating debt, major vehicle repairs and the like.

In January I spent three or four days mulling around ideas in my head on what the best use of our tax refund would be.  Some fun stuff, some necessary expenditures and some debt reduction.  A good mix for Brad to take care of a few things he wanted to do and I had peace of mind that we were working on debt.  It seemed like a good plan.

Brad greed with the ideas and so it was settled.

Then along came God.

He said to me  “Let him buy it. He needs to make the decision.”

To read the rest of this post come visit the new More Than Four Walls launched 4/9/12.  Here’s a direct link to this post.

Change Your Words

We don’t have money to go out to eat

We don’t have money to buy a motor cycle

We don’t have money for that hospital bill

We don’t have money for that sweater

I have said these statements (aloud or to myself) in just the past few days.

It wasn’t until I heard my husband say to my brother “We probably aren’t going to Tennessee next year because we don’t have the money” that it happened.

Conviction

The Lord right then said to me “It’s not money you don’t have, it’s a change in priorities.”

WOW.

I immediately saw how negative my husband’s statement sounded and how negative I have sounded countless times when I talk about our finances to someone else or even to my husband (or even to myself).

I’ve become so accustomed to saying “we don’t have money” that it’s become habit when Lord is right. (When is He ever wrong!?)  We have money but we have become more in tune with our budget and what our priorities are. What we spend money on is now in clear focus.

The Lord also reminded me that life and death are in the tongue.  When I say “we don’t have money” I am speaking negatively (death) about our situation.  If I say, “Going out to eat isn’t a priority for us” or “I don’t want to spend my money going out for lunch” I am speaking the truth of the situation.

Budgeting and spending wisely are positive things.  They are not easy things but they are positive and in the long run they are freeing.  I shouldn’t be speaking in a way that makes them seem negative.

What a better example I am to everyone around me, family, friends or coworkers when I voice my choice on my spending in a positive way (life).

Other People’s Perception

A non-believer may say to themselves “Well she’s not living any kind of victorious life; she never has money for anything. What blessed life is she talking about” Now granted money doesn’t equal victorious living but to a non-believer it might.

Secondly, as I mentioned before I’m not speaking victoriously about my situation.  I am blessed with funds to pay my bills and feed my family but I choose not to spend money on a sweater because it’s not a necessity.

My brother is in his early 20’s and I’m trying to get him to understand budgeting.  I pray that the mini conversation about vacation doesn’t make him think budgeting is a waste and too constrictive.

Not What You Say but How You Say It

My husband’s statement about our annual vacation would have been better stated as “We probably aren’t going to Tennessee next year since we’re working on paying off debt.  We’re thinking of doing a few smaller local camping trips that will cost way less.”

Doesn’t that sound hopeful, positive and goal oriented?

“I packed lunch today, I’m saving my lunch money for a sweater I have my eye on.”

This could spark a conversation with a co-worker who is desperate to get out of debt and doesn’t have a clue how to begin.

There are far too many people in the world who really do not have money for basic necessities. I don’t need to water down their hardships by carelessly speaking words that really aren’t true.

Do you find yourself speaking a negative version of a positive situation?

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

 

This post shared at Women Living Well

A Word on Giving

A thoughtful question from a reader on my Finance Friday post prompted me to write this post today.  I felt that his question might be stirring in others.

In our home we follow the teaching that tithing is to take 10-percent off the top of our income and return it to the Lord.  But why? This is such a valid question.  I think this is something each person needs to seek out for themselves, or each couple needs to seek out.

To blindly give and not understand why you are giving robs you of the wisdom and truth the Lord wants you to have.

More so, it robs God of the praise he deserves for His ways.  If His ways are higher than ours, we should seek to fully understand as much as our finite minds can, the ways of the Lord.  If He wanted us to blindly do whatever he commanded he wouldn’t have given us free will.   That is the beauty of our Heavenly Father.  He loves us, He wants us to follow his leading but He wants us to do it because we sincerely want to, not out of obligation or because He made us do it.

Why 10%

The Hebrew word translated to tithe is asar which means ten. Ma’asr means tenth part or tithe.  This is why many follow the 10% guideline when giving.

When I start taking my offering seriously my husband was not on board with giving “that much” to the church.  So since I felt convicted I to increase I began to tithe on my income alone.

 Giving doesn’t just stop at 10% though.  The tithe should be your goal if you are not giving or are giving less but you also should not stop at 10% and feel that’s all you need to give.

This is a decision that you (or you and your spouse) need to make.  We have begun to increase our giving each year when we get a raise.

  

Ok, but why do I give off my gross pay and not my net pay (Or) Why give before taxes, why not after taxes?

Our reasons for tithing on our gross pay are this:

In biblical times when the Lord called for a sacrifice an unblemished (clean) animal was chosen.  The bible also says in Exodus 13:2 and 13:12 that the first-born was to be sacrificed.

By sacrificing the clean, the unclean was made righteous and was redeemed.  (In comparison to us and Jesus – Jesus, clean & spotless, was sacrificed to redeem us, the unclean.)

Exodus 23:19 says “The best of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. We give back to God the first fruits of what He has given us.  In Proverbs 3 verse 9 we see “Honor the Lord with your wealth and the first of all your produce.”

While we no longer take grain offerings or animal offerings to the Lord we do take a check or cash to the offering plate. I believe that we honor God by bringing him the first of our wealth.

Simply stated, God over government.

In today’s society our paycheck is taxed before we see one cent of our money so I can see why people choose to give based on their gross earnings. I feel if God gave me a job at $10.00 an hour and I work 40 hours God has blessed me with $400.00.  I want to give back to him based on what He gave me not on what is left after the government has their fair share.

Only God has the authority and ability to bless our finances and multiply them.  The mortgage company doesn’t, neither does your credit card. And the government certainly does not have that ability (though they do think they have the authority.)

When we really started to budget our money I began to write out our tithe check before I would even look at our bills.  Why? Not because of an obligation but as my personal way of saying “God, this is your money and before I do anything else with it I am committing this portion back to you.” For me it was a matter of the heart.

Additionally, this is the only subject, to my knowledge that the Lord tells us to test him on.  Malichi 3:10 reads “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.” He wants to pour out abundant blessings on us but we must acknowledge that it is all His to begin with and take back to Him His portion.

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

 

A word on comments: This can be a hot button issue.  I encourage your comments but I demand respect, love and kindness.  You may disagree with me or what someone else may post which is ok.  Disagree in love.  Disrespectful comments or comments with cursing will be deleted.  

Finance Fridays: What to do with Debt

Debt can be a constant source of worry and stress. If your married it can be a huge stressor on your marriage.

So what do we with all of our debt? We cannot run from it.  Well, some people can and do but as Christians we must do what is right and responsible.  How do we get out of debt and avoid it in the future?

First we have to know what we’re dealing with.

Acknowledge The Debt and Get a True Picture

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that the  first step is admitting you have a problem. This can apply to addictions, relationships and debt.

You have to acknowledge that you have debt and that the debt is a problem. Many people can admit that they have debt but you also have to admit that it is a problem.

You need a real analysis of our debt and you need to understand the big picture of where you sit.

Your credit card debt is not just a $90 monthly payment on a $4,000 balance.  It’s 18 years to pay off $4,00  and $3,000 in interest paid.

Using paper or spreadsheet software log all of  your debts. Include the name, total due, minimum payment and pay off date.  You can find this information readily available all credit card statements and some mortgage statements.  Most banks/lenders have online access which should also have this information.  Crown Financial Ministries has a simple yet effective sheet for logging debt here.

Once you have your numbers together you’ll have a true picture of what you owe and the depth of your debt.

This is not a place to give up. This is just your starting place! I’ve said before that have to know the truth to make progress.

Talk to the Lord about your debt.  If you’re afraid tell him.  Don’t feel condemned over the debt you have accrued, be convicted that you’ll do something about it.  Ask the Lord to give you wisdom.

Next week we’ll explore what to do once you know what your debt picture looks like.

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

Finance Fridays: Tips to Reduce Spending

Whether you’re new to budgeting and planned spending our you’ve been actively managing your finances for a while there is always room for new learning and reminders of the simple things that can quickly destroy a family’s budget.

 Here are a few tips for budgeting success

 Call a Family Meeting

Call a meeting with the family and discuss ways everyone can help in reducing expenses.  Even young children can get in on the action by having “Light Switch Duty” and be sure lights are out when no one is in the room.

 Nix Brand Loyalty

Do you really need Heinz Ketchup?  Are Aldi Brand paper plates just as good as Dixie brand?  For our family the Heinz is non-negotiable.  Off-brand ketchup will not do.  Paper products are a different story.  I am an Aldi fan especially

English: A bottle of Heinz ketchup

for things that I do not buy organic or natural. Also consider if you need name brand things like pens, paper, diapers, baby wipes or laundry detergent.

 Annual Utility & Necessary Expense Shopping

Once a year, shop for the best rates on utilities and other “necessary because they just are” type expenses.  Here is a list of some things to checkInsurances – car, life, home owners

  • Utilities – propane, oil and even natural gas and electricity in areas where they are deregulated. Deregulation means that you have a choice of who you will buy your natural gas or electricity from just as we have a choice of who we buy our long distance phone service from. Speaking of…
  • Telephone service – there are now companies who offer Voice Over IP (Vonage, Magic Jack, etc). Compare your bills and see if you can save
  • Cable or Satellite providers
  • Don’t forget to ask about bill bundling.  In my area we bundle our local phone service, long distance, internet and satellite and save around $60.00 a month.

 Grocery Shop with a List and Meal Plan

English: Aldi, Central Park The Central Park d...

Grocery shopping without a list is a big no-no and a great place to start in plugging budget leaks.  If you do not meal plan you should consider it.  I mean plan monthly and shop monthly but I know others that do it weekly or bi-weekly.  In my house the more I stay out of the grocery store the better!

See my other posts on Meal Planning by clicking on “Meal Planning” to the right.

 Save on Laundry

Wash as much as you can in cold water and use drying racks, inside clothes lines or outside clothes lines.  Before we had our son I was able to cut our electric bill greatly by reducing hot water washes and dryer use.  Making your own laundry detergent is another money saver. 

 Pack Lunch

Whether it’s going to work or going for groceries if you’re out all day pack your lunch.  You can save a ton of money if you pack instead of buying.  Think about it – a $4.50 “value” meal at the drive in twice a week is $468.00 a year.  How many times a week do you “drive thru?”   Not only does it save money but oh how much healthier it is to pack a lunch.  I don’t care if you pack store-bought lunch meat on store-bought white bread with store-bought mayo it has GOT to be better than mystery meat from any fast food chain.  But that’s another topic for another day!

 Avoid the Mall

Like it’s the plague. If you do not need a specific item do not go! We are like bugs attracted to a light when it comes to malls, craft stores, hobby shops and sporting goods stores. The simple fact is until or unless you have trained yourself in restraint just stay away.  Don’t go stroll through the mall on a Sunday afternoon for something to do – stroll through the park.  Too cold? Rainy? Then cuddle on the couch and watch a family movie or play a board game? Don’t have a board game or a movie? Make a big fort in your living room with clothes pins and sheets.  Don’t have sheets?  Well, then I’m out of ideas at the moment.

 

There are tons of ways to save money by tweaking little things in your life.  Ask the Lord to show you ways your family can save.  Ask him to open your eyes to see things that you may otherwise miss and remember, it is all about being good stewards with what the Lord has given us.

 Until Next Time,

 Be Blessed

Finance Fridays 2/10/12

Welcome to Finance Fridays! Every Biblical stewardship is critical to the lives of Christians.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whosoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.”   Every Friday we’ll cover topics on biblical stewardship, spending, saving, budgeting and general ways to be frugal. Join me as we look toward God’s plan for our finances and away from the worlds. 

This week’s topic: Tips For Cutting Kitchen Cost

On average the American family will throw away 100 pounds, or $500.00 worth of food every year.  This is a tragedy on so many levels.  Polution, landfills, people who go without food.  Pick your poison. They are all valid reasons to act wisely in the kitchen.  So is your budget. 

Being frugal in the kitchen can cut your budget and still allow you to eat healthy.

Here are just a few tips to get you started (there will be more come!):

  • Meal Plan. I started meal planning about 9 months ago and I cannot tell you what a difference it has made. Now, instead of making a chicken and tossing the left overs a week later because they were forgotten about we have chicken Saturday night, chicken pot pie Sunday and chicken salad sandwiches for lunch Monday.  Plus, I make bone both/stock with the carcass.  This has been the biggest money save for us.
  • Scale back your recipes.  If you’re feeding a family of 2.5 like us, you do not need to make a 9×13 pan of maccaroni and cheese.  and 8×8 is plenty with leftovers for lunch.
  • Buy bulk when you can. It is cheaper per ounce to buy a 29oz canister of coffee then a 16oz bag.  You might pay more up front but the per ounce cost is less. Same goes for toilet paper, paper towels, etc
  • Name brand isn’t always necessary.  There are some good quality off-brand items that are way less expensive.  Aldi’s brand of paper towels work just fine as do their napkins and paper plates.  Does anyone really care if you’re using Brawny (and if they do tell them to bring their own paper towels.) 

What ways have you found to cut kitchen cost?

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed

Finance Fridays 2/3/2012

Welcome to Finance Fridays! Every Biblical stewardship is critical to the lives of Christians.  Ecclesiastes 5:10 says “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whosoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.  This too is meaningless.”   Every Friday we’ll cover topics on biblical stewardship, spending, saving, budgeting and general ways to be frugal. Join me as we look toward God’s plan for our finances and away from the worlds. 

This week’s topic: Determining your Net Spendable Income

I’ll be honest.  It took me a few tries to wrap my head around “NSI” but it really isn’t that complicated.  The condensed version is this: NSI is the money left after tithing and taxes.  See, simple.

You need to know how much money you have in order to know how much you can spend.  Did you catch that?  The further along on this journey you get you’ll see that you are only going to spend what you make.  Nothing more.  You can’t spend what you don’t have and you don’t have a credit card.  Repeat after me “I will not use my credit card.”  There. Good.  We’ll cover that more in another Finance Friday.  Your goal now is to decide exactly how much money you’re working with.

To find your NSI grab your pay stub and follow along.  How much did your employer pay you? This is typically the highest number on the stub.  The gross amount.  Take your gross amount times 10%.  This is your tithe. 

Now, there is a section on your pay stub that lists your taxes and other deductions from your check.  These other items could include 401k, health insurance, healthy saving account plans and mine includes the monthly charge for my cell phone. 

There are two ways to approach your NSI.  Some say that tithe and taxes are the only thing you take off of your gross pay amount.  This might be the financ-y way to do it but it’s not how I do it.  I take the net income on my check, the take home amount as some call it, subtract the tithe and what I have left if my NSI.  Why do I do it that way?  Since my employer does take out my 401k, insurance and other items I feel they are non negotiable items.

Here’s an example:

Gross pay: $1,000.00

Tithe: $1000.00 x 10% – $100.00

Taxes, misc: $250.00

$1,000.00 – 100.00 – 250.00 = $650.00.

The NSI is $650.00.

To create a monthly budget you’ll want to know your monthly NSI.

Tips:

  • You can calculate your yearly NSI with your W2 and then divide by 52.
  • If you are paid weekly take your NSI times 52 for a yearly amount
  • If you are paid bi-weekly take your NSI times 26 for a yearly amount
  • If you are an hourly employee base your NSI on a pay period with little to no over time.  Overtime is extra income that might not be guaranteed.

Until Next Time,

Be Blessed