Wisdom for Wives

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

Check-In #3: Check Yourself

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A few weeks back–OK, several weeks ago–I offered my first suggestion for gradually getting “checked in” to your finances: keep track of your spending for two weeks. Since I pay for most purchases by debit card, my plan at that time was to log in to my checking account after two weeks and review my transactions online. Now that it has been (ahem) 12 weeks, at least I can say that I have sufficient data from which to draw some conclusions! And the data has been eye-opening.

I already knew that most of my purchases are for food, but what struck me is the frequency of my purchases. Even with a meal calendar–which was a boon to my weeknight sanity in August and September (I slacked off in October)–I am still going to a grocery store an average of two more times after my regular weekly shopping. I’m also stopping for a treat like fries or frozen yogurt, “for the kids,” perhaps more often than I should.

I don’t think of myself as an excessive or frivolous spender. I rarely go clothes shopping, for example. When I do, it is often at a place where the employees wear red polo shirts. But after taking a closer look at my day-to-day spending, I can definitely see room for more thoughtfulness. Which brings me to today’s check-in:
Keep track of your spending (again), for one week this time, and ask yourself a few questions at the end of the week:

  1. Does anything surprise you about the frequency, amount, or where you spend money?
  2. Are you intentional about your spending, or is it based more on impulse?
  3. Do you see any opportunities to save money by changing when, where, or how often you shop?

As I said before, I’d like us to get back on a budget as a family, but I think it’s important to first look at where I need to be more disciplined.  As wives, however little or much of the family budget we may have control over, we can ask the Lord to help us to be faithful with that amount.

~~His master replied, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23a, NIV)~~

May the Lord help us to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us, and thank you for stopping by!

Susan

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Check-In #2: One Bill At a Time

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As I mentioned last week, it can be difficult to talk about money with your spouse when there is unconfessed bitterness or guilt between you. God has been so merciful in enabling me and my husband to confess, forgive, and recover from many of our own financial mistakes (made thus far :)). But if money is an “untouchable” topic right now, I encourage you to ask God to reveal to you the root of that tension. It may help with financial communication, but more importantly, Jesus taught about giving and seeking forgiveness in our earthly relationships.

~~Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24, NASB)~~

and

~~Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. (Mark 11:25, NASB)~~

As those issues continue to be explored and healed, there may be steps you can take to gradually learn more about the “state of your flocks.” The first small step I suggested was keeping track of your own spending for two weeks. Most of my own spending goes to food, and keeping track helped me realize the importance of meal planning to avoid overshopping and impulse buying.

The Check-In step for this week is:

Learn the amount of one bill that you don’t already know.

This could be your phone bill, car insurance, cable–anything that your family pays for every month and that stays about the same. The ultimate goal is to know roughly how much money comes in and goes out every month, in all categories. But we’re taking it step by step. So, in a notebook or on an index card, write down five things going down the left side:

  1. Rent/mortgage
  2. Car loan
  3. Phone
  4. Utility (pick one from electricity, gas, water)
  5. Choose one other bill

On the right, jot down the amounts that you already know. (If they are all unknown, don’t worry about it.) Then, pick just one to learn in the next week. You can do this by looking at a recent bank statement or bill from that creditor (paper, or online if the account is in your name), or of course, finding out from your husband. If it seems too overwhelming to get started, consider asking a friend to join you, so you can encourage each other and keep each other accountable. I would love to hear how you are doing, so we can all cheer each other on! You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!

Thank you for stopping by,

Susan

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Checking In, Step by Step

Green checkmarkThere was a time in my marriage that you could have said I was “checked out” when it came to finances. Then one night, for some reason that I no longer remember, I sat down with the bills and added them all up.  I think I was surprised by what I discovered–that our expenses met or exceeded our income.  But my husband was not surprised.  He had already known, was already stressed about it, and had been warning me about it for months.

~~A wife of noble character, who can find … She watches over the affairs of her household.  (Proverbs 31:10a, 27a, NIV)~~

In my case, at that time, I believe it was probably necessary for me to get a crash course in my “affairs.”  I think that sometimes we need crash courses, and sometimes God lets us take baby steps.  In the coming weeks, I will suggest some gradual steps towards getting checked in to your finances.  And I will be doing them myself.  These days I’m very involved with bill paying, but it has been a while since I checked on our discretionary spending, on things like groceries and clothing.  And I know we need to get back on a budget.  So today’s Check-In step is:

Track your own discretionary spending for two weeks.  This could be done in a number of ways:

  1. Good ole pencil and paper–Carry a notepad and record the date, vendor, and total of each purchase.
  2. Use your smart phone–Use the notetaking app to record purchases.
  3. Let your phone be really smart–There are many apps for that!  But don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by all the choices.  The point is to just get started.  If you spend more than 15 minutes in the App Store, put your iPhone down and chose option 1 or 4.
  4. Check your account online–If you make most of your purchases with a debit or credit card (as I do), log in to your account in two weeks and add up all your purchases made since today.  (If you do use a card for most purchases and do not check your account online, consider doing so. I plan to talk more about that in a future post.  But it’s not a big deal.  I think it is more important for now to begin the practice of monitoring your finances, in whatever way works best for you.)

Two weeks may not sound like a long time.  And it’s not; it’s a baby step.  If there’s one area where you know you do a great majority of spending (for me, it’s food), then you could just limit your recording to that area.  Make a step, however small.

One objective for this Check-In is to start to be more mindful of where I am spending money.  Also, since I would like to talk with my husband soon about setting up a new budget, I think it’s important to focus on my own actions before talking to him about what I think we should do.

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