So, I'm going to talk a little about our finances today - not too much, because that would just be terribly boring. I came across some new ideas last week as I focused on our spending and I wanted to share them.
So, I've always thought we were pretty good at managing our money. From the statistics that I hear, we do better than average. However, I've kind of stagnated with our budget/savings and it was time for some rethinking. We need to be putting more money in savings (other than our adoption fund - I think I got distracted by that and kind of let everything else sit, untouched).
So, in case you're thinking about your finances right now, too, here's my list of goals (some were achieved last week, some need a little more time)
1. Get our retirement account set up - Right now, our retirement fund is sitting in a regular ole savings account, not earning any interest. There is a reason for this beyond laziness. I know that putting our money somewhere that it will earn higher interest is necessary, but I also know that those kind of funds involve giving our money to people who in turn work the stock market with it. I don't feel comfortable with the idea that my savings is going to buy stock in companies I may not approve of. Most big, moneymaking companies are less than ethical. If i don't want to buy their products, why would I want to buy stock with them? I have heard of something called SRI - socially responsible investing, but I can't seem to find anyone who knows anything about it, so I don't know where to start with that.
In the meantime, we've just got to start earning some interest on our retirement savings, so I'm going to compromise a bit and open a retirement account with Guidestone. At least it's a Christian company. When asked if they practiced SRI, they said they don't invest in things like porn...so at least there's that...
2. Go over our budget and list items by priority - This was kind of a "duh" moment for me. I just had everything listed in random order. If i list by priority, I'll be able to allot amounts better, and if we run short one month, I'll just work my way down the list until it runs out. Internet is important to my life, but it falls beneath those silly little things like clothes and rent. I have to say here that I am so thankful that never have to worry about the essentials - food, rent, even semi-essentials like internet. So many people even here in the U.S. wonder how they're going to feed their children.
3. Open mutual funds for the kids - pretty self explanatory. We've got a tiny bit set aside for them for later, and I know it will grow faster in a mutual fund. Can I say that, halfway through last week, I texted Dennis telling him that I wanted to either become Amish or a hippy in a commune. Reading about things like roth-IRA's and mutual funds and the stock market make me want to crawl under a rock. Not fun.
4. Get a credit card - Oh my gasp, I never thought I'd say that one! We are very anti-debt around here. It's so freeing to be out of debt. Of course, we'll want to buy a house some day, but other than that and maybe a car or medical expenses to save a life, there is nothing I want badly enough to buy it before I have the money for it. However, Dennis and i talked it over, and we'd prefer to use a credit card for online spending - it's just safer, providing you go with a company that doesn't hold you responsible if you get hacked. Also, we're going to go ahead and sign up for the rewards because there are quite a few bills and such that we pay online, why not get a little cash back on them? We feel that we have proven ourselves responsible enough to not spend more than we would using the debit card. We will still use cash for the areas that are more difficult to keep a handle on, like groceries and "blow money" (that's the Dave Ramsey term for "money for stuff that comes up", like "It's been a rough day, let's go out for ice cream".
This week was incredibly hard for me!I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I was trusting God with our finances. I was really just in a state of "I don't want to think about it...much." Yeah, we're frugal. I think this is mostly because the less I spend, the less likely I am to get to ever get to a point where I have to decide between groceries and electricity.
This is not the same as trusting God.
"Being Responsible" versus "Living Biblically"
I read verses in my Bible like The parable of the rich fool in Luke chapter twelve, and when Jesus sends out the disciples in Matthew chapter ten, and it sure seems like Jesus doesn't want us to build up treasures here on earth. It even sounds like we shouldn't be saving up extra money.
He says he'll take care of all of our needs, not to worry about what we will eat, drink or wear in Matthew 6:7-11 and Phil. 4:19.
Then there's the whole "the love of money is the root of all evil" in 1 Timothy 6:10.
Doesn't it just sound marvelous and carefree, giving away all of our cash and letting God take care of the kids' college funds and our retirement?
Then, I read financial advice, from nonbelievers and believers alike, and they write all about having emergency funds and retirement funds and mutual funds and so many funds! (Did I mention that my husband is a seminary student/youth minister? If we tried to live the way Dave Ramsey says to, we'd both have 2 side jobs and not be able to give any away, aside from our tithes. Oh, and that adoption thing? We're crazy to even think about it in the next ten years.)
I spent about half of a week battling these two, seemingly opposing, views. It really made me question everything - especially our adoption. Are we being foolish? I'm not foolish enough to think that there are plenty of people who would like to tell us that we are making a mistake.
FInally, I took some time away from it all, just to hear God's voice.
It's all so simple, really. Yes, we need to live with open hands, ready to let God manage our money and ask us to give at his asking - it's his money anyway! We also have to live with level heads, realizing that we shouldn't rely on our children or the government to make up for our lack of foresight. We need to save in order to continue to be in a position to give. I have created a mantra for myself when I start getting dizzy about all of this financial mess -
I am called to give freely, spend responsibly, and save responsibly, trusting that God will provide for all of my family's needs.There's no magic formula for every person. There's no right amount to give/save. God does call some to give it all away. He calls some to affluency and financial security - provided that they don't squander it on personal pleasure and comfort. We each have to be in communion with God and honest with ourselves.
I do have to add that I hope we never use "being responsible" as an excuse for disobedience in big or small ways. I know that my little money decisions can make a big difference to someone else. This week in Bible study, a woman shared her daughter's story about a girl she met in Nepal last month. This Nepalese girl dreams of going to college, but the $250 she needs to complete all four years of schooling is just an astronomical amount for her and her poor family. Just think about that. Many families spend $250 eating out each month. A college degree would alter the course of this young girl's life. They are working to find a way to get those funds to her now.
We have moved to a new focus in our Seven Study - prayer and rest. I know that the secret to true financial peace lies not in saving or giving, but in living in such close communion with the Holy Spirit that we know God' will and do not hesitate to act on it.
That is true security.
In what ways has your family found it a blessing to give?