Money Matters

I wasn’t sure how to start this post off. Nobody really likes to talk about their personal money or how they spend it…or steward it. Money, salaries, spending habits, etc. are considered personal discussions to be had with only close friends and family. So, I’m going to be brave and dive right in. OK?

Since Louis and I got married 5 years ago, we have taken a SERIOUS look at our spending plan or our budget, depending on your school of thought. We did this for a number of reasons – because we wanted to be better stewards of our money and because we knew that the day would come when my job at the bank would end, which it did nearly 3 years ago. We were working toward making it on just Louis’ salary, and we all know pastors don’t get paid what they deserve, especially when you break it down to an hourly wage. But, I won’t go there…because like most teachers, pastors don’t become pastors because it’s a great paying gig.  It’s a true calling, well….hopefully, anyway.

We have slashed our expenses significantly. Here are some things we did…

  • We received new bids for car and home insurance (which saved us a TON of money! and should have been done LONG time ago.)
  • We refinanced the house (at no cost to us!!! YES!!! Thanks, Wells Fargo!).
  • We (or I should say LOUIS!!!) negotiated deals with cable/internet. We have VERY limited channels.  (every 6 months, Louis tackles this one because this process makes me want to hit someone…hard.)
  • We watch a lot more Netflix (or nothing at all).
  • We cut off the home phone (because who needs it anyway, right????).
  • We changed our home security system.
  • We buy a lot less stuff and plan our buying better. You will see me in the same clothes…. a lot. Just replacing the basics. (I did manage to replace my favorite black sweater since it had several holes in the elbow.)
  • We sold stuff on Craig’s List. Have done ok here.
  • We (with A LOT of help from the neighborhood youth!!!) had a yard sale to help fund the community stuff we do with the kids. (It didn’t generate a lot of cash, but we met some really great neighbors, so we consider it a HUGE success!)
  • We followed Dave Ramsey’s plan almost maniacally…using an app currently called EEBA  (name is changing soon) which acts as the envelope system that Dave talks about.
  • We use our credit card for EVERYTHING (which Dave Ramsey would kill us for!!!) we possibly can, because we pay it off each month AND the bank gives us a lot of cash back when our rewards add up!
  • We make it a game. You won’t see us on Extreme Couponing or anything like that, mainly because what we buy doesn’t usually have coupons. But we love to find great deals to cover our fun time. Louis usually wins.
  • I told Louis I would give up a lot of things, but hair color would NOT be one of them. At 50, I’m nearly 100% grey (not 50 shades of grey…just grey and white) and I’m not ready to see that in the mirror every day. So, I have grown my hair out…only getting it cut every 3-4 months to help offset the cost of my color.
  • Using the Dave Ramsey plan, over the next 6 months, we will pay ourselves back (to the emergency fund) for the car repairs.
  • Louis has replaced the brakes, spark plugs and other minor maintenance car repairs at home.
  • Terence has noticed we no longer keep a big tub of cookie dough or sodas in the fridge and totally understands, but appreciates the big thing of lemonade we keep in the cabinet.  🙂

So, this is where we are for the month. This has not been a good month for us! Here we are, 2/3rds the way through the month…with 10 days to go…and we are already at our spending limit! Ouch! Even though we planned for an extra car repair expense and a trip to New Orleans, we didn’t account for gifts (although I was tempted to re-gift – I did not succumb to that temptation), and I overspent on groceries today. Yikes! We also intentionally went over last month, thinking we could cover it this month and pay ourselves back.  So, as long as I can go the next 10 days without buying anything, we will be OK. I am confident that we will make it!

gas priceHere’s our no spending plan….

Louis will be laid up having surgery, so I will have to keep him away from amazon and other internet sites while he’s on the painkillers. I am grateful that we have a cupboard and fridge full of food and a car full of gas (some of which we got at 89cents/gallon thanks to my mom’s savvy fuel perks savings!).  And I am grateful for the little coupons from St Mary’s that will cover a couple of meals while I am at the hospital (and a super generous friend who’s going to bring me something DE-lish to eat for dinner on Monday – although I would be MORE than willing to share one of my St Mary’s cafeteria coupons!  LOL) And…for some of you who know of our obsession…we are stocked with ‘Booty’… aka Pirate’s Booty, which is our go-to snack of choice. So, we are more than good to go!

Quick interesting story…I was in a class not too long ago with a group of non-profit leaders.  I started to share our cost cutting and budgeting/spending initiatives with them over lunch, and they were totally psyched! To the point that they started taking notes, and downloading apps! They suggested that I teach a class.  LOL  But, I don’t see that happening.  We are still learning! So, I am interested in knowing what YOU do.  How do you save money? When things get tight, where do you cut? What have we missed? Where else should we look?

Side note: I would be remiss if I didn’t include this! Louis and I are also appreciative for the many gifts and acts of kindness from friends and family! Gift Cards to our favorite restaurants, movie theatres, etc. that we received earlier this year when life really shifted. Surprises in the mail and at our doorstep, which literally made us cry…. you know who you are! Meals and visits when Louis and I were hospitalized earlier this year. Folks who helped out around the house while Louis was laid up – hung cabinets, cut grass, whacked weeds, attic adventures, and so much more. Timely phone calls, emails, texts. Shoulders to cry on when things got really stressful. Ears I could vent to without judgment. I love our generous group of friends, family, and community. Thank you.

With all this cheeky humor aside, we are the most blessed people ever.  God’s provisions have been nothing short of AH-mazing, unexplainable, abundant, and rich.

We are so grateful.

How Rich are You and I?

I, along with a number of my friends and about a gazillion other people, have been challenged by Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt. I first wrote on it in August, 2010 in my post Happy 5th Anniversary to Me!!!.  6 months later, this book continues to come up in conversations with friends and family.  Platt states things like…

  • Today, over a billion people live (and die) in desperate poverty (less than a dollar a day).
  • Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars a day.
  • 30,000 children today will breathe their last breath due to either starvation or a preventable disease.

How do you and I feel about that?  Do we believe it?  It’s hard to make those kinds of statistics real.  I just stumbled on a a new website…Global Rich List. According to their formula, if your annual income is $50,000 (US$) you are in the top 1% of the richest people in the world (yes…I said WORLD!!!).  That means that out of 6,775,235,741 (that’s 6.775 BILLION!!) people in the world….you are # 59,029,289 (that’s 59 MILLION)  At $125,000 (US$) it jumps to the top 1/2 percent; and you are # 29,907,929 (that’s 29.9 MILLION).

So, what are we called to do with all this money?  Buy a bigger house?  Buy a fancier car?  The latest smart phone??  Guilty!!!  I am soooo tempted now that Verizon and iPhone are working together!!!  It’s getting harder and harder to hang on to my stuff; and I am getting ready to give it all away…in a reactionary way….wanting to purge myself of stuff that I feel like just weighs me down.  Not to mention, I have to step over it, dust it, move it to make room for more, etc.  It just makes me tired…really tired!  Thankfully, Louis is slowing me down (so I don’t do something TOTALLY radical!!!) as we continue to pray through what God is calling us to do.  Jumping into the deep end can be scary….so I think we will wade in.  So…watch for us to have a big ole yard sale this spring.  Our goal is to use the proceeds for the community.  We have a small “sock fund” that we use to meet needs in the community ~ treat the kids to ice cream, pizza, or after school snacks, school supplies, Bibles, community meals, hats, gloves, and socks for those in the cold, etc.

On a more practical side…we have already been taking steps to decrease spending, out of necessity…with my corporate job ending and making a move to more community work (which has been a long time coming!).  But, also out of a sense of calling…to be good stewards of what God provides us.  A few examples…

  • Why should we give over $100/mo. to Comcast when we watch only…maybe… an hour or 2 a week?  So…we are now on the basic cable plan!  It meets our needs…thanks to free programs like Hulu and inexpensive plans like Netflix!
  • Got new bids on our home/car insurance and saved a TON of money there!
  • Returning to coupon clipping…altho it seems they are never with me when I go to the store!  Gotta work on that one!
  • Louis continues to drive his ole “beater”. (I’ve called it that after it was totaled by our insurance company after it was vandalized multiple times by a neighborhood kid who acted out at us.) We want to pay cash for a new new-to-us (also known as used or previously owned) replacement.  Or maybe we will continue to share the other car.  I’m learning how to navigate the Richmond’s public transportation system!  It’s been years since I rode the bus!

So…a lot of us are either being forced into reducing expenses due to economic downturn, or are choosing to cut back or do with less, maybe out of an urging from the Holy Spirit.  What steps are you taking?  What ways are you making that move?  Would love to hear from some of you.  Would love to hear more ideas on ways to save and ways to give more or do without.