Today's girlfriend devotional is so good and applicable, that I have linked today's posting to Marybeth Whalen's site and have already got myself in line to purchase her new book due to be released in March.
As we start our month-long look at stress and how each one of us works and copes with that, I thought finances was a good place to begin.
Many of us are feeling the crunch of the downturn in the economy. Some feel the financial pinch more than others. I'm sure all our situations are unique. We have the stress of going from two full-time jobs income to one full-time job and one part-time job income with an extra mouth to feed...and a budget originally based on the income of two full-time jobs.
I have learned so much through this whole process - a little over 2 years. We landed ourselves in a house that I feel God has placed us (nowhere else to go, as it turned out) and because of that I claimed God's promise of provision for us. We are in a situation that he has placed us, he knows what we need to stay where we are and I believe he will provide. I have never doubted his provision.
We have struggled with tithing...looking at the logical bank account numbers and thinking we can't afford it until our pastor last year raised the point that the Bible doesn't say..."wait until you have it". It says, "Give and it will be given unto you". Every week as I contemplate our tithe (which can fluctuate) I hear the Lord's voice "Do you trust me?" "Or, will you trust me?" If God was sitting there face-to-face with you, could you say, no. Could you in anyway doubt him? I couldn't. My answer was 'yes'.
I see so much that God has provided through a job I never thought I would ever have. Four months before our baby was due, I found myself without full-time employment, but it had been confirmed several months before that my position would not be renewed. This particular job had seen so many developments in my life I continue to be amazed at how God orchestrated it all. Not only did it provide for us directly, but it allowed me to establish a freelance business, and provided bonuses even 9 months after the termination of my position, which we used to pay off our smaller debts. I have now landed a good-paying freelance job with promises of royalties from books to be released, and we have the added bonus of several of our bills reading "amount owing: $0".
We have made many decisions, though, to help us get a little more out of what we have.
1) We very rarely eat out. Except for one meal a week, we eat at home. My grocery list includes things that I can get two meals out of or more. For example: a pack of bone-in/skin-on chicken breasts. You can butterfly the breasts - two meals for us. Use the muscle for a stirfry - one meal. Use the bones and skin to make soup - one meal. That's 4 meals for $20 or $5 per meal that's a little less that $3 each.
2) Cut the cable. We made this decision a long time ago on our old budget. We had to cut $50 from our budget and looked at what we spent on the cable and what we spent on the internet. Since I couldn't run a freelance business without the internet, the cable got cut. Since much of the television programs we don't have any interest in anyway, this is okay. We buy and rent movies instead, and download the programs we want off the internet.
3) Make your lunch. Don't buy it.
4) I have learned to say 'no, we don't need that' or "Do we really need that right now?" My husband and I have switched roles in this respect. I'm usually the spender, he's usually the saver. I have learned to slow down and accept that I don't have to make a decision right away and approach everything with "can we live without this?"
5) Consolidate your debts as much as possible and for those smaller things, learn to work within a budget. Make sure this budget is reasonable, though. If you budget $200 for spending and always spend $300. Then leave it at $300. it's always better to plan for a little bit more and not use it, than to plan for too little and end up going over. It's a lot less taxing on your self-esteem, as well.
6) Try to work with cash, not debit. Debit cards are almost worse than credit cards. But the money still comes from a budget. If you have a budget for yourself, take that money out of your bank account right away. Once that money's gone, it's gone. Don't take out any more.
Anyway...please feel free to share your stresses on this and your victories. I know the US has the added stress of trying to exact medical care out of your incomes. In Canada, we don't have to worry about that so much since much of that stuff is covered by our universal health care. But, let's hear what you do to save money. Let's hear how God has shown you his provision. Let's support each other as we fight the financial battle.
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