“…I don’t need to have the most, be the best, or reach the top. It is okay to pursue a life marked by obscurity and simplicity. It doesn’t matter what I own or how I’m perceived. Whether I succeed in the market or land hopelessly in the middle is irrelevant…” -J. Hatmaker
I face my own demons with this struggle. I have believed in the past that the larger home would allow me to invite in my neighbors, that the extra income would allow me to “give” more to the needy. Yet once the increase hits, my mind immediately sees the past debt, the dance class, that trip I’ve been really wanting and all the sudden that extra money is no longer going to the church or the poor but myself. I have prayed for more money, just to then accumulate more debt. I have spent the past 5 years climbing out of the bad financial choices I had made in the prior years. We have climbed our way out of debt 3 times, which of course I had said I would never repeat again. This time I hope my hard work will stick. I am more hopeful because this time we worked for it. The first 2 times the money was given to me (via sold houses), therefore there was no real sacrifice, no real change in how I viewed or spent my money. This time we did the work. We studied, we read, we changed our spending habits. Our debt was fully paid off almost 2 years ago now and we still maintain that status. This is the first time we have lived below our means and the peace that comes with it is intoxicating. Had I known this level of release , of contentment, I would have made these choices years ago. This is all a part of the process I have found. Had I not struggled through debt, the mind blowing amount of debt collector’s calling and the life stealing guilt of always being broke, then I would have never reached the clarity I have found today. I know that I am not out of the deep end just yet. I am merely floating with a life preserver that can be punctured at any time by the sharks swimming below, begging me to buy what I think I deserve (but can not afford). This lifestyle of peace only comes from putting all my hope in the one who sent me. Trusting His plan and His provision. Knowing He will provide what I need, when I need it. I have to trust that when that number in my bank account goes above my means that I will hold up my end of the bargain as He held up His. That money is not mine, it is a gift, a blessing, to be shared.
So as I continue to rest in my life preserver, I will cling to hope. I will cling to His truth. I will be alert and wise in my thinking and my choices. I will not grow weary when life deals me a crap hand, because it will. Satan (evil, devil…whatever your choice of names) knows your fears, your insecurities and he will use money every time to bring you down. He is the shark swimming below, not the money. Money is the mere tool to be Jesus’ hands and feet. To carry goodness and prosperity to suffering nations. To bring relief and nourishment to those starving. Money is not the root of all evil, the LOVE for it is.
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
Lets remove the crutch of needing more and lean on the firm foundation of contentment. If you are struggling today, I am so so sorry. I know this feeling, I know the desperation. It hurts, it feels like failure and weakness. I promise you friend, you will get out of it. It might take some sacrifice, it might take some big changes. For me it looked like selling a home, it looked like downsizing my food budget, it looked like letting my kids sit out of the extracurriculars (not forever, just until the season passed). Be honest with yourself, your family, your friends. Tell your kids that we just don’t have the money to do that but we will work hard and save for it. Teach your family that it’s okay to say “no”, to live “simply”, to be “normal”. I haven’t had cable in 7 years and guess what, I survived! Between Netflix ($11/mo), my Roku (one time fee of $25 on Groupon…bought a refurbished one and after 2 years it STILL works just fine!), my FREE apps through the Roku and my ever so fancy and “vintage” bunny ears/converter box I still can watch all my shows! It’s not hard but it most definitely takes discipline.
Sit down with a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left, write the non-negotiables (and this does not include Jack’s baseball trainer), this is your mortgage (with an * b/c this can be changed if need be…moving is always an option), your electric bill, phone, water, gas, wifi (only if truly necessary for work/school), grocery bill (leave the dollar amount blank for now), gas for car (leave blank for now), car payment, insurance, credit cards and medical bills. Then on the right column write down all your other bills (cable, gym memberships, manicures/massages (self care), all the extra’s that don’t keep the lights on at night). At the bottom of the page write your income (the actual paycheck you take home). Now on the left add up all the non-negotiables (remember we left gas and groceries blank), this is what you must pay every month without exception. Sidenote, if this is already more than the paycheck…don’t panic, this is where transformation happens. Now add up the right column, these are all options that can be cut immediately if you are already over budget or seen as possible “saving” opportunities if you are not over budget. The left side of this paper is how much it cost to live in your current lifestyle and the right side is how much you could be saving for vacations, school clothes, holidays, birthdays, etc. Now go back to the left column and add in your “ideal” grocery and gas price. The trick here is that if this takes you over the paycheck amount…obviously you need to adjust. You can begin adjusting on the right, removing the non-negotiables, as well as decreasing your “ideal” gas and grocery budget. This may look like carpooling, not committing to activities that aren’t in your 10 mile radius or being budget conscious with meal planning. The main point here is that you want all your bills to be LESS than the paycheck, this is where peace finds it’s way into your home. You keep cutting until the number is less, this will carry into food budget (which includes eating out, those $7 latte’s and quick lunches on the go). A wise man once shared with me that you should take all your food budget and put it in an envelope, when it’s gone..it’s gone! Brilliant! (Thank you Dave Ramsey) Just remember, while it may not happen over night, small changes will make a big difference. If you start by paying off debt first (Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball saved my life), then you can instantly remove that $200, $500, $1000 monthly commitment right there! This is not quick friends. This took us a good year to get out of and it can take a lot more depending on how much debt there is. Don’t be discouraged, post your goals all over the house. Put up pictures of your family to remind you that they are so much more important than stuff. I had this verse posted in my kitchen and bedroom that kept me focused,especially during the more difficult times…
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)
Do you dream to tithe? To use what you have been given to give back? Add this into your budget. Scripture tells us to give with a cheerful heart. Don’t tithe out of pressure or reluctance. Tithe because you want to take the blessing of money and share it with those in need. Tithing can be anything in my opinion that is helping the underprivileged. My church does so much great work in and around the world that I trust them with my tithe but if you don’t have a church home or are reluctant, then give it to an organization you do support. Give it to the poor. Financially foster a child. The possibilities are endless. Not belonging to a church is not an excuse to not give back.
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor: 9:7)
So friends, as I have laid out my own faults and missteps, I ask you, will you be truthful with yours? Are you happy with where you are financially? If not, what is one change you can make it today? What can you sacrifice for a life of peace?
This life is too short to be burdened by the demons of money. It will rob and leave you for death if you allow it.
It is always my hope that these words find who they were intended for.