Finances have always been a challenge for growing families. It seems that no matter how much we made, we never had enough! One of the biggest challenges for us was learning how to survive on one income. Being a stay-at-home mom means a lot of financial sacrifices. Going from two incomes to one was difficult. Yet, I felt strongly that I needed to be home with my kids as they were growing up. Over the years, I was able to find jobs that were part time and were while my kids were in school or when Grandma could watch them for a little bit. I have tutored kids, subbed in the local elementary schools, worked as a Norwex independent sales consultant, and when my daughter graduated high school I started my own business as a professional organizer. Even now I try to take clients during the day while my kids are in school. My goal is to be home when my kids come home from school, be there to help them with their homework, and talk about their day and make meaningful interactions with them. I have found that if you have a righteous desire (like wanting a job that supports your desires as a mother), the Lord helps you fill those righteous desires and needs and opens doors you didn’t even know were possible.
After 20 years of marriage, we have learned a thing or two about finances. Let me share some tips that have really helped us with our finances.
Pay the Lord first…Tithing
This has to be the very first thing you do to have financial success! It may seem contradictory that you give money to have money but I have learned that as you pay the Lord first, things just “work out”. We pay 1/10 of our increase to our church. Here is an example of how you can make an online tithing donation. There was a time in my life when I didn’t pay my tithes. I just plain forgot to do it. That was one of my most difficult times financially in my life. I never had enough money, never could make ends meet, and just felt flustered and crazy all of the time! What a difference I saw when I started paying my tithing! That was over 25 years ago! I have witnessed how the Lord will “open the windows of heaven” and pour out blessings upon you as you pay tithing. There are jobs that I got that I know were a direct blessing from my paying tithing. We have received financial blessings: in a check sent for just the amount we were short, in good medical and dental health, having plenty to eat even in a pandemic, and in cars and appliances that run far longer than they are supposed to but “somehow” just keep going. The amazing thing is there are non-financial blessings that have come as well from paying tithing…feeling a closeness to God, having insights and wisdom to make important decisions, and greater quality family togetherness.
Communication with your spouse
So many couples fight over finances. When finances are tight it definitely can add tension to a marriage. A couple of things that we have done together to help with our financial journey… Share a bank account! You are supposed to be one-that includes money. We talk about any purchase more than $100, but often items much less than that. Fast and pray together about your current financial situation or financial goals you have. I will never forget growing up when my dad prayed that we would have money for a family trip we wanted to take. We were able to go on a nice trip together. That lesson has stayed with me. Things important to you are also important to God. We pray about trips we want to go on, knowing how to save for the future, where to live, even for us to have knowledge to be good stewards of what the Lord has given us. Take time to meet regularly with your spouse to discuss finances. We like to meet weekly on Sunday nights to discuss important family matters and finances. We have set many savings goals together. Ask yourselves where do you want to be in 5 years? 10? Is there a trip you’d like to go on? Set goals and work towards accomplishing hard things. I think you’ll be surprised what you can do as you set goals and work together to achieve them!
“Wealth consist not in having great possessions but in having few wants.”
“WANTS” vs. “NEEDS”
This is one of the biggest challenges having a family. You could spend money on so many fun things…vacations, boats, fancy cars, RVs, etc. It seems like everyone has them. But just because everyone has them doesn’t mean that you “need” them too. We started out our marriage camping for almost every vacation. We have a strict budget for Christmas and we don’t go over that amount. We try to take care of things and they last a long time. We don’t buy brand new electronics. Instead we get refurbished phones and computers. We shop at second hand stores. We make lists of things we need before we go to the store and focus on those items so we can focus on what we really need. One time we needed to buy a couch so we would have enough seating for our entire family. I researched it online and found a used but nice, practically new leather sofa for less than half the price.
What is a want versus a need is a tough lesson to learn. Ask yourself, do we really need this? Focusing on needs instead of wants will help you. Managing money takes self-discipline and self-restraint! Commercials highly impacted what my kids wanted for Christmas. The best thing was DVR when we stopped watching commercials and my kids were able to decide for themselves what they really wanted. Here is a printable to help you Ask WHY before you buy.
SAVE!!! SAVE!!! SAVE!!!
Oh how I wished I had known to save when I was younger! I would be rich now! I am definitely a spender and not a saver. Saving money is a hard lesson to learn. But you can start today to save for a better future. We have really gotten on board with what Dave Ramsey teaches. He has helped us get to a better place financially. A few ways Dave Ramsey says to do it…save $1000 for emergencies, get out of debt (except house), then save 3-6 months expenses, then save 15% for retirement, then save for schooling, then pay off house. There are sacrifices that you will have to make to have the money to save. Dave always says “Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else.” Scrimp and save now so later you can live big and financially happy.
Money isn’t the only thing you should be saving. With the craziness of the pandemic and supply chain issues, you never know when you will not be able to get your favorite item at the store. I was surprised when the grocery store was out of celery and didn’t know when they could get more in. It is a smart idea to invest a little bit each week on your favorite household items. Over time, we have acquired a large amount of food storage and other essentials for a rainy day. I’ve tried to buy extras of food when it is on sale or in bulk. Remember when we thought we wouldn’t be able to buy toilet paper? We also stock up on other items we use often: tissues, first aid supplies, medications, batteries, emergency equipment, even shampoo. I always try to have at least one extra container of everything we use. Here is my post on preparing your family for a disaster. It really is just adding a little bit extra each week and before you know it, you’ve got a great supply saved for your family.
Part of a budget is knowing where your money goes. We save every receipt for a month and write down every expense. Every penny spent is counted. Budgets also help you plan and figure out what you will be able to spend each month in every category. We love to use Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar app for budgeting. It is free and simplifies the process. It is easy to spend whatever you make so put a label on where the money should go.
Something that really helps us make our budget is planning out our meals for the week. We used to go out to eat a lot because I was tired, we were in a hurry, or we were already out and about. Planning ahead of time has saved me lots of money! If my daughter has a soccer game, I’ll plan a meal to eat while we are watching the game or put something in the crockpot to eat as soon as we get home. When I go grocery shopping, I try to only go once a week. I make a list of what I need to get and try to stick to the list. Grocery pick up is a great option to avoid impulse buying and saves you time as well. I love shopping so grocery shopping is fun for me. If I stick to my list it helps a lot. I also keep a running total on my calculator on my phone as I put things into my cart. It helps me see if we are already close to the total amount that I shouldn’t buy that extra item that isn’t on the list into my cart. Another way to save money is to double the recipe for dinner and freeze the extra for another meal. I like to do this with enchiladas and lasagna that take a while to make.
Another tip for making the budget is to take care of your items. Believe it or not, if you clean and take care of your items they will last longer! Putting things away when you are done with them will prevent things getting broken or lost, needing to be replaced. I know of people that let their kids break things or make big messes and end up replacing carpet or other items frequently. Our carpet is 20 years old. We do clean it every 6 months or so, but it is still functional and therefore hasn’t been replaced yet.
Look for ways to cut costs. We got a nicer, faster internet and it ended up being about the same price as our old slow one. We call our phone and satellite provider every few years to get better deals. Often they will do deals for long time customers. Instead of paying for a babysitter, we used to get grandparents to watch them or do a switch with another couple. We enjoyed getting out and the kids had lots of fun together. Look for cheap or free activities to do together. We love going up in the mountains, playing board games, or going for walks. You don’t have to spend a lot of time to have quality time together!
Teach your kids
Handling money correctly is a skill that you can learn. Take the time to help your kids learn how to handle money correctly before the world teaches them how to handle it incorrectly! I loved reading Smart Money, Smart Kids. This gave us a lot of ideas of how to help our kids learn to handle money. We give are kids money every month for work they do around the house. We have taught them to put the money earned into three categories…Give, Save, and Spend, They give a percentage of the money earned to each category…like 10% to give, 20% to save and 70% to spend. You can help them change % as they get older or help them add more categories. For instance, my daughter did 30% to give and 40% to savings and only spent 30% as she earned money because she wanted to have money for gifts for family members and was saving for college. Here is my post about teaching your kids about finances.
Our kids all have an account at the credit union, we’ve also saved some in an education fund for college, and they also have a long term savings account for any other big life expenses. One thing we tried to help them get motivated to save was that we would match any money they put into their long-term savings. For instance, if they put $500 in we would match it and it doubles for them. Education is also so important to us that we encouraged them to get good grades instead of getting a regular job. My oldest was able to get her tuition for college covered completely! That will save us a lot of money in the future! They have taken many small jobs which work around schooling and activities. They’ve helped family and friends clean their houses, watch kids, mow lawns, tutor younger kids, etc. Here is my post on ways for kids to make money.
There is a peace that comes when your debts are paid and you have some money saved. Hard financial things become more of a pain and less of a life altering event. I know I have grown closer to my spouse as we have worked to set financial goals and meet those goals. Keep at it. It takes time but it will be so worth the sacrifices and struggles you are making now!
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