Saturday, April 9, 2011

Budget Points

It’s been a little while since I posted on here, so I figured it was time for an update. As far as that scholarship I was hoping to win: not this time. I’m OK with it. I mean, I’d REALLY like to attend She Speaks one of these years. But, the fact is, even if I won a scholarship to the convention, I’d still have to get pretty creative to afford the gas or airline ticket to get me there and back. This is just not a good year for me to be thinking about doing something like that. Any extra trips this year are already spoken for with the family: hopefully weekend priceline trips to Chicago and Cincinnati. This just isn't the year for me to take a trip away on my own. That's OK. I'm going to keep writing on this blog to my heart's content whether it ever amounts to anything else or not!

Here's what I've been thinking about too much lately: our finances. Worrying is what they call that. I think for us it’s the combination of rising food and fuel costs. Especially if you live in Michigan, times are pretty tough right now. So I think this post will be a few words of encouragement (directed as much at me as to anyone) on how to make the best of some rough financial times.

Here we go…

1. Give all our worry over to God. Well, I already mentioned that I’m not doing so hot with this one. I mean, I even have the prime verse on this issue posted right in my bathroom where I read it every single day:

Philippians 4:6-7 ~ Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

These are some very comforting words, aren’t they? The thing is to take that comfort and let it last longer than the five seconds it takes to read the verses. How do we do that? That answer goes back to my post on dealing with ugly thoughts: re-training our brains. For starters, we have to saturate our minds with verses like the one above. We have to fill up our heads with what God’s Word says about worry. The TRUTH on the matter. Then, we have to spend time in prayer asking God to help us with this sin issue. And also ask Him to reveal to us when we are doing it so we can “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) and then we can begin to “be transformed by the renewing of [our minds]” (Romans 12:2).

Yep. That’s what we need to do. Now we need to conjure up the discipline necessary to do it. And to stop making excuses like, “well, I’m just a worrier by nature.” Hog wash. God didn’t plan to leave us where He found us. He’s not done with us yet! Let’s promise each other right now that we’ll work together to abolish worry from our lives. It’s nothin’ but a joy-stealer. No good will ever come from it. I'm downright sick of it, aren't you?!

2. Cut all the extras from the budget. Oh boy. This one can be just as daunting as the first one, can’t it?! I mean, I think we all know there are probably a few things floating around in our monthly budgets that we keep in just because we feel we can’t live without them. That we "deserve" them. Things like maybe: cable TV, regularly eating out, Starbucks, etc. Well, let me be Dave Ramsey here for a second. Tough financial times call for tough financial measures. That means: quit thinking we “deserve” to be pampered. Some of our “can’t-live-withouts” are quite expensive! Imagine how much money could be opened up in our budgets if we looked for some of these extras. Unfortunately for me and Dave, we already gave up cable a long time ago. And most of the other “extras” have been long gone too. (This living on a tight budget isn’t anything new to us.) However, we had gotten used to living on paychecks with some overtime. That overtime is now a thing of the past. So it’s time to strip away a few more things…or at least find ways to get by with less. Which leads me to the next point:

3. Have regular “budget meetings” with your spouse. This one is EXTREMELY important. Especially when you’re at the beginning of this whole journey down “money’s really tight” lane. Whether this is your first real budget meeting or you just haven’t had one in a while, I’d highly recommend starting it off with prayer. We all know that money (and sex) are the biggest things couples fight over. You want to go into this not-so-fun budget experience full of the fruits of the Spirit. That means love, joy, and peace - not irritation, annoyance, and finger-pointing. (Just sayin'.) So go ahead. Get all those budget numbers ready, grab a calculator and a good eraser, and make sure the kids are in bed. Trust me. You’re going to feel SO much better when you’re both on the same financial page. Makes this whole journey a much more enjoyable one.

4. Once the new and improved (and hopefully more balanced) budget is on paper, you may have come to the same realization that many other couples in this situation have: it’s time for somebody to get another J-O-B. This is where you have to get creative and figure out what works best for your family. It all goes back to that lesson we learn as kids: if you want more money, you gotta work for it. Sometimes there isn’t enough stuff to cut out of a budget. Sometimes the only way is to bring in more. I tell you what: my parents were the perfect examples of what to do here. I saw my Mom take various jobs throughout my childhood. Whatever it took to make ends meet, they were willing to sacrifice to do it. As their situation changed, so did Mom's work schedule. It is possible to homeschool your kids (or be a mostly-stay-at-home-mom) AND bring in extra money for the budget. It's hard, but it's possible.

Now sometimes (as Dave and I know all too well) things happen and jobs are lost. In those moments, you can still do every other thing on this list. And when it comes to this part…you pray, trust, and wait. Well, obviously the waiting doesn’t mean sit back and take it easy. But while you’re sending the resumes and doing the interviews, you trust that the Lord has a perfect plan and you wait on Him to reveal it. And He will. It may not be when you thought, or how you thought…but God’s ways are ALWAYS greater than ours. Trust Him. Oh the story you’ll have to tell when you’re on the other side of it!

5. This last one applies especially to those of us with kids: laugh. You know that saying, “never let ‘em see you sweat”? When it comes to our finances and our kids, that’s EXACTLY what we need to do. Kids don’t need to be worried about adult things. They just need to see that no matter the circumstances, Mom and Dad are happy. Because laughter to a kid means peace. It sure did to me! Even though my parents walked through some very tight times while I was growing up, I never really knew it. I just knew we were happy. My parents didn’t shower me with material things or fancy trips. But they showered me with laughter. They showered me with fun memories. That’s all that mattered to me. Not only is laughter good for our kids, but it’s good for us! It takes the edge off. It helps us to see things in a better light. It’s like that line from the new Francesca Battistelli song: “it’s not the end of the world.” (click here) Yes, it can sometimes feel that way. But laughter and prayer and counting our blessings helps us to see that no matter what our financial struggles…it’s truly NOT the end of the world.

So if you’re walking through a rough financial time right now, I hope something from this post encouraged you. As I said, I wrote this as much to get my brain set back on the right track as much as for anyone else to read. I’m so glad for parents who showed me that it’s possible to have a home bubbling over with love and laughter even when the budget is screaming for some breathing room. The material things don’t matter. There's always going to be someone who has more than us...but there's just as many who have less. We can’t ever get disappointed in what we don’t get to have. Let’s always choose to be thrilled about the laughter. The friends. The memories. You can’t put a price tag on them. As the commercial says, they’re “priceless.”