Wisdom for Wives

"Be diligent to know the state of your flocks …"

5 Ways to Get Involved in Your Finances

5 Ways to Get Involved in Your Finances

Welcome to the third and final installment of the 5-5-5 of Finances series!  I hope you’ve found it encouraging so far.  The other two posts discussed hindrances to, followed by benefits of getting involved in your finances.  And now, finally, here are some ways to get started.
 
Pray
This may seem obvious, but I have to admit that prayer is not always the first solution that comes to my mind when I’m facing a challenge. But prayer is absolutely where you should start, and continue (1 Thessalonians 5:17).   Pray for wisdom (James 1:5).  Pray for peace (Philippians 4:6-7).  You don’t even have to know what to pray for (Romans 8:26).  A cry of “Heeelp!” qualifies as prayer!  I have also prayed this prayer from The Power of a Praying Wife.
Lord, I commit our finances to You. Be in charge of them and use them for Your purposes. May we both be good stewards of all that You give us, and walk in total agreement as to how it is to be dispersed. I pray that we will learn to live free of burdensome debt. Where we have not been wise, bring restoration and give us guidance. Show me how I can help increase our finances and not decrease them unwisely. Help us to remember that all we have belongs to You, and to be grateful for it. I pray that [your husband’s name] will find it easy to give to You and to others as You have instructed in Your Word. Give him wisdom to handle money wisely. Help him make good decisions as to how he spends. Show him how to plan for the future. I pray that he will find the perfect balance between spending needlessly and being miserly. May he always be paid well for the work he does, and may his money not be stolen, lost, devoured, destroyed, or wasted. Multiply it so that what he makes will go a long way. I pray that he will not be anxious about finances, but will seek Your Kingdom first, knowing that as he does, we will have all we need (Luke 12:31).*
Renew Your Mind
Change is hard, and lasting change is even harder.  I know because I’ve changed a bunch of times!  😀  Some changes have been permanent (I don’t nag … as much … I don’t think?), but I long for change in other areas (confidence, and freedom from worry).  Romans 12:2 tells us how to not only change, but be truly transformed.  It happens when our minds are renewed.  When we are truly convinced of an idea, it shows up in our attitudes and actions.  And the best way to change our financial (and marital) attitudes and actions is to adopt God’s ideas, which can be found in Scripture.  Here are just a few:
In addition to reading what God has to say about money and marriage, I encourage you to memorize passages about issues that are especially difficult for you.  (Which means, I need to meditate more on God’s faithfulness!). Hide those verses in your heart (Psalm 119:11), and see if they doesn’t pop into your mind at just the right times.  When I’ve been tempted to ignore the bills on my desk, or put off a much-needed budget chat with my husband, the Holy Spirit has reminded me of Proverbs 27:23 and Proverbs 3:27-28.  When I’ve worried about my job, He has comforted me with Lamentations 3:22-23.

Get the Right Advice
Another way to dip your toe in the pool of finances is to get some good advice.  It could be tips for saving money or getting financially organized.  You might find helpful strategies for getting out of debt.  There are lots of books, blogs, and programs out there, which is not surprising—it’s something we all think about, even when we don’t want to!  But not all of the advice out there is Biblical (trying to get rich quick, for example, is discouraged in Proverbs 28:20), and it doesn’t all put marriage before money.  So find what I like to call “covenant-minded” resources that encourage you to work with your husband and for your family in managing money.  And, I must add, don’t feel condemned if someone’s highly successful approach doesn’t work for your family right now, or ever.  Unless it’s from God, you don’t have to do it, even if it worked great for someone else.  That also goes for anything on this blog, obviously. 🙂 Take what works for you and leave the rest!!

Track Your Own Spending
Recording your own expenses for 30 days, or even two weeks, is a relatively easy way to start learning where your family’s money goes.  I say “easy” because you can start right away and do it yourself. It can be a little painful, though. For me, it was a real eye-opener.  Keeping track of my spending for a few weeks revealed how much I was spending on fast food and unnecessary grocery trips.  It was surprising because I don’t consider myself a big spender.  But this little examination led me to make changes—meal planning and paying with cash—that saved 20% on my food spending.  And even though I didn’t ask him to or even suggest it, my husband started doing it, too!

Talk to Your Husband
To me, this one is the hardest.  My husband is an extremely kind and calm person, and he wants me to be involved in the finances.  Still, it is not always easy for us to talk about money, for reasons I’ve mentioned in this series and other posts.  But partnership requires communication.   Not about every expense and transaction.  But enough that both parties have a good idea of what is going on.

If the thought of sitting down at the kitchen table with your husband to TALK ABOUT THE BUDGET fills you with overwhelming dread, there may be other less intense ways for you discuss money.  There are also less intense aspects of finances than THE BUDGET; you can find small places to start, such as suggestions for reducing expenses (if that’s necessary).   And you may not need to start a conversation.  Your next step could just be having an open and willing heart the next time your husband brings up the subject of money.  But whoever brings it up, be respectful of your husband and appreciative of his efforts.  In other words, you might not want to say, “I’ve done some research and compiled a list of mistakes you have been making, in addition to changes I intend to implement.”  And if you do discover problems, pray for humility and patience.  Examine yourself (Matthew 7:4-5); it may be necessary for you and your husband to forgive.  Be led by the Holy Spirit, and consider asking God to show you your role in financial and marital restoration.

I pray that this series, and this blog, have been a blessing to you.  As I’ve said before, money may not be a fun topic.  But it’s not a bad word either.  Rather, know that God is working in your circumstances for your good (Romans 8:28).

Thank you very much for stopping by,
Susan

* Taken from The Power of a Praying Wife. Copyright (r) 1997, 2014 by Stormie Omartian. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon.  www.harvesthousepublishers.com.  Used by permission.
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5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances

5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances

In the first installment of the 5-5-5 of Finances Series, I talked about reasons why some wives may avoid learning the details of their financial situations. You may have more of your own. But there are at least five reasons why it is worthwhile to “learn the state of your flocks.”

Your Husband
~~The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31:11-12)~~
Relationship dynamics and division of labor are different for every married couple. But whether you both bring in an income, or one of you does all of the earning, you are partners in life. Even if your husband writes all of the checks, managing the family’s finances doesn’t have to be a burden that he bears entirely alone. He may not even view this task as a burden, but there may be many ways that your talents and abilities could bless your husband in this area. If you have a careful eye for detail, you can catch erroneous charges on your bank statement. If you are an organizing maven, you could put those powers to use on the stack of bills (but maybe don’t “surprise” your husband with a brand new filing system without discussing it). Or you might have great ideas for saving money, bringing some in, or getting out of debt.

There may not be a need for you to do anything differently.  After all, there only has to be one bookkeeper.  But simply understanding the details your financial situation could help you gain your husband’s perspective on things. Now, it’s true that you two could look at the same set of numbers and draw different conclusions (as is sometimes the case in my house). But such knowledge may help you better appreciate your husband’s efforts to care for the family. In other words, knowing the financial score may help you to be a better cheerleader.

Furthermore, your husband might find comfort in knowing that if he were unable to manage the finances, either temporarily (due to illness or military deployment, for example) or permanently (may you both have long healthy lives!), you would know what to do.

Getting involved is not about whether you trust your husband’s ability or integrity; may they be above reproach. But don’t discount your own ability to provide moral support, practical support, or both.

Your Children
~~Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).~~
Having more money doesn’t make you a better parent, but your children would be the beneficiaries if your involvement improved your financial situation. And they would benefit from your ability to handle the bills if you ever had to do that alone.  You also have an opportunity to model good stewardship for your sons and your daughters. As they watch you, they can learn precious lessons about careful saving, thoughtful spending, generous giving, living on a budget, and being content—lessons for a lifetime. And if your children are anything like mine, they will turn right around and start teaching you! It happened in our family when we became more conscious of our food spending. The kids went from wanting a treat every time we got in the car, to reminding the parents about the budget when we wanted to order pizza. The nerve!  (Don’t worry, they still ask for treats 🙂 ).

To me, the most vital lesson my children are learning is that it’s never too late to change. We ought to continue learning and growing no matter how old we get.

Your Neighbor
~~John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry” (John 3:11).~~
Do you wish your family were able to give more to your local church? Are there missionaries or causes that you’d like to support more generously? Do you have big dreams for serving, but don’t think your family can afford them?

Maybe you can afford them. Perhaps, with some adjustments to the food budget, you could set aside some of your weekly groceries for a local food pantry. Maybe you can be the one to find some extra money each month to sponsor a child in need.  And every dollar that no longer goes to repaying debt is a dollar that can potentially bless someone else.  Is it possible that through your prayers, changes that you could initiate and encourage, your family could give more generously?

Yourself
~~Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds (Proverbs 27:23).~~
You are a great reason to take an interest in the family finances. After all, it’s your money, too! Regardless of who earns it. And it’s not selfish to take care of your stuff and plan for the future. Actually, it’s God’s stuff, entrusted to us for faithful stewardship, which includes knowing what’s going on with it. And, the commandments for stewardship apply to the single and married, male and female. Besides, anything with your name on it—tax returns, mortgage, lines of credit, etc.—is yours as far as the creditors are concerned. They do not care how little you know, only how much you owe.

And believe it or not, setting a budget can be liberating in a way. Once you have agreed on how much to spend on particular categories (granted, that is the hard part), you don’t have to wonder whether you’re spending too much on clothes for the kids, or whether you can afford to splurge on groceries this week. If it’s in the budget (and the Lord isn’t telling you otherwise), then you can!

Jesus
~~So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless (1 Corinthians 15:58).~~
Becoming more aware of your financial situation might improve communication and promote understanding in your marriage. It could lead to more generous giving, or setting aside more for retirement, or your kids’ education.

Or not.

None of those things are guaranteed.

But where we do have assurance, is that if we seek wisdom in faith, the Lord will supply it generously (James 1:5). If we trust Him, He will direct us (Proverbs 3:5-6). If we seek first His righteousness—in all areas—He will take care of the rest (Matthew 6:33). And if our motivation in managing our money is to serve our families, bless our neighbors, and faithfully steward His blessings, our efforts will not be wasted.

Stewardship may not look the same for every wife, but if we ask the Lord how to do it, He will show us. And I will have a few suggestions next week, in the final installment of the 5-5-5 series.

Thank you for stopping by,
Susan

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5 Reasons to Stay Out of Finances

5 Reasons to Avoid Finances

Believe it or not, money is not my favorite topic.

But money can have such a big impact in marriage, which is a topic that is dear to my heart. That is why I write about it, and that’s the motivation behind the 5-5-5 Series on Marriage and Money (or the 5-5-5 of Finances for short). So let’s jump right in to the first installment, which discusses some reasons for avoiding the subject of money:

1. “It’s my husband’s job, and he’s great at it!”
It’s a fact—the Bible even says so—we all have different skills and abilities. And money management just comes more easily to some people. So if you were a serial check-bouncer who had the good fortune of marrying a CPA, you may have been very happy to hand over your checkbook on your wedding day. Even if the skill differential isn’t that extreme, what’s wrong with leaving all of the bill paying to your husband, especially if he’s good at it and maybe even enjoys it? Why on earth would you want to rock that boat??

2. “What’s there to know?”
The house is paid off. The cars are paid off. Most or all of the bills are paid automatically, and you stay within budget for discretionary spending. You have at least 6 months of a cash reserve. You make regular contributions to the kids’ college and your own retirement accounts. You also give frequently and generously. After years of careful saving and frugal spending, you have achieved that to which many of us aspire—true financial freedom. There’s not really anything to be involved in!

3. “It always leads to a fight.”
One of you mails checks and the other prefers online bill paying. He thinks you paid the electric bill and you think he did—so the lights get turned off. But the water bill was paid twice. Even when you have a good system for tracking and communicating about the bills, you can forget, make mistakes, and miss messages.
Aside from the logistical challenges of managing money together, it’s hard for many couples just to talk about money (as I discussed here and here). These conversations can stir up all kinds of emotions, from fear and worry to anger and bitterness. They can evoke painful childhood memories of hunger and lack, or of your own parents’ conflicts about finances. On the other hand, you might be frustrated that your spouse approaches money differently than your parents did. With so many issues wrapped up in this one topic, it’s no wonder that many wives (and husbands for that matter) avoid talking about it.

4. “My husband won’t tell me what’s going on.”
If your husband is stressed about your financial situation, he may want to spare you from the worry that he is experiencing. And while he would not be justified in being unkind, he may feel angry or defensive when you ask about money. Or everything could be fine and he just might be busy. Sitting down to explain everything might seem like a chore to him, especially if he keeps the information in various different places (or all in his head). There could be any number of reasons. The point is, as hard as it is to discuss finances with your spouse, it’s almost impossible if one of you is unwilling. And there’s yet another barrier: if you have been uninterested in finances in the past, questions now may be met with skepticism. “Why the sudden concern?” he may wonder. You probably don’t want to give the impression that you doubt his ability (even if you really do).

5. “To be honest, I just don’t care.”
There is more to life than money, and more problems to think about than financial ones. Health problems. Kids’ behavior problems. Problems at work, with your parents, your siblings, and of course, with your spouse. Life can be overwhelming, and sometimes it feels like you don’t have an extra brain cell—or tears—to spare. Certainly not on something that, at best is in your husband’s capable hands, or at worst, seems so hopelessly beyond redemption that you might as well forget it altogether. What good does it do to spend any time thinking about your finances if you feel powerless to change them?

So if you weren’t before, are you now thoroughly convinced that trying to learn more about your finances is a terrible idea?? Do you never want to see a bank statement or 1040 form ever again? If so, or if you have other reasons that I didn’t mention, I hope you will read the next installment in the series: 5 Reasons to Get Involved in Your Finances.

Thanks for stopping by,
Susan

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An Invitation

You are cordially invited!  The 5-5-5 Series on Marriage and Money will begin Saturday, March 29, featuring:

~~ five reasons for avoiding the topic of personal finance ~~

followed by

~~ five reasons to learn the state of your flocks ~~ 

and concluding with

~~ five ways to get started ~~

No RSVP is required; all are welcome!

5-5-5 Series on Marriage and Money

Thanks for stopping by, and see you Saturday!
Susan

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