Over the past few years, I haven’t made much money compared to those around me. When you throw in the fact that I have three kids, the amount seems dismal. Yet because of some simple financial principles, my wife and I were not only never stressed about finances, we were VERY happy and content. In 2010, I made less than $30,000 with a wife and son. In 2011 and 2012, I made less than $30,000 with a wife and 2 sons. In 2013, I made less than $30,000 with a wife and three kids. Even more mind-blowing, we were able to save $19,000 over the past 4 years. How did we do it? Here are the principles we lived by:
- We agreed on a budget. This doesn’t mean that I came up with a budget and my wife submitted to me. This doesn’t mean that she came up with a budget, and I bowed to her. This means that the two of us sat down at the beginning of each pay period and put a plan together, agreeing on where each dollar was spent. Budgeting is one of the greatest opportunities to practice becoming one flesh, and it’s also a great way to strengthen your marriage. Just a warning, it’s REALLY difficult at first, and you may get in a fight (or two) (or three) (or…oh you get the picture)!
- We lived on the budget we agreed on. As you can see, my blog is titled: Intentional Christianity, and here’s why. I’ve found that the difference between people who make a difference in the world, and those who don’t make a difference comes down to one thing, one group—the difference makers—follow through on their good intentions. The same is true in finances. You can intend to manage money well all day long, but it takes discipline and commitment to follow through. A budget, which is a written plan for every $1 you make, is only a good intention if you don’t live it out. P.S. following the budget is a great way to show honor and respect to your spouse.
- We relied on each other’s strengths. Dave Ramsey divides mankind into two categories: free spirits and nerds. I like to think of myself, not as a free spirit, but as the fun director. My wife likes to think of herself, not as a nerd, but as the steady saver. Regardless of how you look at it, it’s a good thing we have each other to lean on. Otherwise, we would end up living in a van down by the river. If I was in charge, all of our money would be gone and we’d live in a van because we are broke. If my wife was in charge, we would have $100,000 in the bank and live in a van to save money. Providentially, we have relied on each other’s strengths, and we live in a modest house with a great nest egg in the bank.
- We saved and saved and saved because saving equals freedom. Did you know that when it comes to finances, spending doesn’t give you freedom while saving does? There have been two points in our married life where I have been in between jobs, guess what?! Finances, were not a stressful factor in either situation. By being diligent to save money, you give yourself the freedom to take risks, and oftentimes, the freedom to follow God’s call.
- We didn’t spend extra money. This was hard for me, but again the principle here leads to freedom. By sticking to the budget, not only did I honor my wife and family, but I didn’t get us behind early in the month so that we spend the rest of the year trying to catch up. (PS that’s the big problem with credit cards, you’re always playing catch up.)
- We never stopped giving. We didn’t have much money, but we knew the Lord had asked us to give a certain amount each month. The truth is that I can’t look back over the last few years and figure out where the amount of cash in our savings account came from. Yes, we were diligent to save, but that much? God had to have been involved. The only way I can explain this is by the principle of tithing explained in Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’”
If you can see the trend, the main topic of this article is freedom. Being intentional with your money equals freedom. Agreeing on a budget equals freedom. Living on a budget, saving and not spending extra money equals freedom. If you apply these principles, you too can live on a tight budget, and not only survive, but thrive.