Wisdom for Wives

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

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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Suzanne Vel: The Heart of Her Husband Trusts in Her

I’m so excited about today’s post!!

Today I’m starting what I hope will be a monthly series, featuring women who demonstrate some quality of the excellent wife praised in Proverbs 31.  I am inspired when I read about this early-rising, enterprising woman who serves her family with joy and confidence.  But to emulate her in any way, I need help from the Lord and from my sisters in Christ (especially with the early-rising part).  My prayer is that this series will inspire my sisters to rely on God’s power in becoming more excellent wives.

The Vel Family

My friend Suzanne Vel has very generously agreed to be the first interviewee.  Suzanne and her husband Randy have three precious daughters, and serve their local church in various ways, including teaching Financial Peace University.  Suzanne also works on staff at the church, and she is studying very hard to take the Certified Financial Planner exam.

When I think of Suzanne, the word “encourager” comes to mind.  She speaks candidly about her struggles as well as her victories, smiling through it all and helping others to see God in every situation.  It was not easy to choose one verse from Proverbs 31 to be the focus of this interview, and you will soon see why.  Suzanne does look well to the ways of her household (v. 27), but she also extends her hands to the poor (v. 20), and is teaching her children about kindness (v. 26).  I finally decided to use verse 11 for the title: “The heart of her husband trusts in her.”  I think he would agree!

When did you start walking with Jesus?  Would you mind sharing your testimony?
“I was introduced to Jesus by my husband on our second date.  It was the first time I had ever driven around the [Washington] DC Beltway, and he chose that moment to introduce me to my Lord and Savior.  Driving around the crazy Beltway, I found out who Jesus was and what He had done for me.  My heart was tender and it was easy for me accept this truth; my only concern was for my parents and brother who are still to this day not saved.  I was 21 years old at the time and in between my junior and senior years of college.  I was raised by good people who decided that they were not interested in religion for themselves or their children, so therefore they never took me or my brother to church.  Funny enough, both my brother and I had friends who took us to church with them.  My best friend in elementary school invited me to vacation Bible school (VBS) and to church with her family a couple of times.  One time, my brother had a friend to our house for the weekend and the parents insisted that their son needed to go to church, so my parents dropped my brother and me off with him for the service.”

How long have you been married?
“We just celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary on October 5th.”

For what are you most grateful in your relationship?
“That we really enjoy each other’s company.  We are good friends, make each other laugh out loud often, and love to hang out as a family.”

How do you and your husband make financial decisions?  Do you have any “rules,” for example, about when to consult each other about purchases?
“My husband has complete faith in my decisions and ability to handle our finances.  I would like his input at times and he will give it to me when I ask.  I wish that we were the type of people that sat down and had budget meetings or discussed the nitty gritty details, but that is just not who he is.  On the positive side of things, he never, ever gets upset about money.  When I come to him and say, our expenses are crazy this month and the money stinks, he says that it’s just money, and don’t worry about it.  Life’s too short, God will take care of us.  His faith is what keeps him calm and he helps me grow by watching how he reacts to all situations.”

What tools, if any (e.g., pencil and paper, envelopes, software) do you use to manage your finances?
“I like to use Quicken for the day-to-day, to see how the money is, and mytotalmoneymakeover.com budget software for our monthly budget plan.  When unexpected expenses come up and I get frustrated, then all that discipline gets thrown out the window and I decide it’s better to trust in God’s plans than to try to figure out how I am going to make every last penny work.”

You and your family seem to take great joy in sharing your blessings.  Are there one or two experiences that especially moved you to praise the Lord?
“The desire we have to share with others comes from the fact that we do not believe any of the blessings are ours to hoard.  Whatever we have is God’s, and however He wants us to share is fine with us.  I love that this attitude has been passed on to our kids, and they, too, like to give more than receive.  My favorite memory is of when my girls gave their summer earnings to Goats for Ghana through our church’s VBS program.  They were going to earn $100 apiece for doing homework-type things over the summer.  When I explained the plan of the church to send goats to Ghana, and how much that goat would help a family, the girls on their own offered to give up their money to the mission.”

How did you come to teaching a Financial Peace University (FPU) class with your husband?  Is that something you would have pictured yourself doing, say, four years ago?
“Teaching FPU was a total God thing.  I had recently become completely overwhelmed with our financial situation.  One morning I simply prayed to God that He should take over our finances. I was done.  Very soon after, God led me to the Christian bookstore and Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover.  After reading the book in one day, I was excited and hooked on the plan.  I shared with my husband and he was in agreement that we should give this a try.  After we had some success on our own, I really wanted to take the FPU class.  Then we found out that our church was offering the program.  When I reached out to our pastor, I found out that they needed one more set of teachers and we were hooked.  It is great to teach on something that you know works because it has worked for you.”

What motivated you to pursue becoming a Certified Financial Planner?
“I wanted to know more about financial planning so that I could help the members of our FPU classes in a more concrete way.  There are a lot of hurting people in the world that need help with their finances.  Just being an FPU coordinator didn’t feel like enough and I wanted to be able to say I had the education to back up the advice I was giving.”

You also seem to be very passionate about being a good steward of your health and encouraging others to do the same.  How and when did that start?
“This started with the adoption of our puppy, Kipper.  Funny enough, the rescue said he would be a small dog, and what we thought we were getting would not have been good for all the running I do with him now.  Instead, we got a dog that grew and grew and is now my number one running partner.  He knows the word ‘run’ and he knows what I wear to run and he is ready to go, rain or shine, morning or night.  I love the good health and happiness I get from exercise and I know that God wants all of us to treat our bodies well, so I offer my support and advice to anyone who wants to be encouraged to get in shape and feel great about themselves, too.”

What Suzanne humbly neglected to mention is that in the past couple of years, she has run MULTIPLE marathons, including the Marine Corps Marathon last October, raising money for children with disabilities.  Next month, Suzanne will run in the New York City Marathon, in support of Team for Kids.  This organization provides free and low-cost health and fitness programs to under-served children in schools and community centers in New York City, across the United States, and around the world.  Go Suzanne!  We will be cheering and praying for you!!

Do you have any words of encouragement for wives who would like to learn more about finances but feel intimidated or overwhelmed?
“Knowledge is power and fear is not from the Lord. If you are afraid, it’s because you don’t know what you are going to find out, and that is not a healthy position for you to be in.  Take the time to understand your situation so that you can offer support to your husband as he works so hard to provide for his family.  If you are a stay-at-home mom, your support could be shopping wisely, cutting coupons, and shopping for the kids’ clothes at consignment sales.  Cutting costs, making the home a peaceful enjoyable place to come home to, and providing loving support to your spouse are worth more than a lot of paychecks you could bring in the door.”

Is there anything else you would like to share?
“Give it all to God. Everything is His anyway.  The sooner you decide that you aren’t in control and that God is, the sooner you can lean on Him and really flourish.”

I’m so grateful to the whole Vel family for being willing to share about their lives.  And I give thanks to God for what He is doing in and through them.  May they continue to flourish!

Thanks for stopping by,

Susan

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Check-In #2: One Bill At a Time

Green checkmark

image credit: iconarchive.com

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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Dinner Done!

I’m very happy to report that Day 1 of Operation:  Real Dinner was a success.  Lately, out of laziness, I have been alternating between a long pasta (linguine or spaghetti) and a short pasta (penne or macaroni) for dinner, with maybe rice or mashed potatoes here and there.  Sometimes a meat.  Maybe a vegetable.  But last night, since I PLANNED, we had a protein, a starch, and salad!  I did end up taking ALL FOUR KIDS to the grocery store after all.  I ran out of spray partway through cleaning the bedroom carpet and I needed to get it over with so the carpet could dry before bedtime.  While I was picking up another can of spray, I also bought bagged salad because, it was on the schedule, and the one in the fridge had gone bad.  (If I hadn’t gone to the store, I would have just served a different vegetable.)  Little Man (age 3) had a small tantrum when I wouldn’t let him return the basket to the front of the store by himself, to which the young cashier graciously responded, “That’s how I feel when I’m here, too.”  But we survived.

Turkey chili, cornbread muffin, butter lettuce with radicchio

Turkey chili, cornbread muffin, butter lettuce with radicchio

The calendar I used came from the Microsoft Office website.  You can also create printable calendars at timeanddate.com.  Fridays are blank because we usually have pizza.

Meal calendar

It bears repeating:

~~A wife of noble character, who can find … She provides food for her family.  (Proverbs 31:10a, 15b, NIV)~~

Yay!

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Dinner Again??

Wendy

image credit: wendys.com

Saturday is my usual day to shop for groceries.  Yesterday, with the current Check In in mind, I tried to shop more “consciously.” Instead of just buying what I always buy, I tried to buy what would get us through to next Saturday (and spent half as much as I usually do).  I didn’t buy meat because I knew we had chicken breasts and some ground beef in the freezer.  I didn’t buy cereal because we already had two boxes, and even though that won’t get us through the week (there are six of us), there’s oatmeal and other things to eat for breakfast.  I do sometimes overbuy, because I don’t want to get to Wednesday afternoon with nothing to make for dinner, and then have to take ALL FOUR KIDS to the grocery store.  I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it if I have to, but it’s so nice to just push that cart through the grocery store all by myself on Saturday mornings.

But why do I get to Wednesday afternoon with nothing to make for dinner?  Dinnertime seems to come as a surprise to me almost every night.  And I can get away with “silly dinner” only so often.  That’s when I offer something wild and crazy like cereal or frozen waffles for dinner.  (And Dad gets Subway.  But he really likes Subway.  I promise!)  Such a meal contains many essential vitamins and minerals, but since it is also sweet, the kids may not realize that it’s just my “clever” way of not cooking.  I have to use it judiciously.

Even though I’ll be tracking spending for the next two weeks, I also wanted to see how I’ve been doing, so I added up transactions for the past 30 days.  I made some kind of food purchase over 30 times–whether it was groceries, a quick stop for fries “for the kids,” or it’s-Wednesday-and-we-are-not-going-to-the-grocery-store-but-I-don’t-mind-Wendys-drive-thru.

It’s pretty obvious that I can avoid silly Wednesdays and over-shopping with some planning.  I’ve done meal planning in the past.  Nothing fancy.  I just print out a calendar and spend a few minutes penciling in meals for the month.  The meals aren’t fancy either–just a rotation of the eight or so meals we typically eat.  But it’s amazing how free I feel when I look at that calendar at 4 PM and I KNOW WHAT WE’RE HAVING FOR DINNER.  And it doesn’t come out of a fry basket!  So I’m going to print out a calendar tonight and buy myself a little freedom!

~~A wife of noble character, who can find … She provides food for her family.  (Proverbs 31:10a, 15b, NIV)~

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