Excitement! A challenging budget!!

I have been so excited about the weirdest thing the past few days:  a budget.

My husband and I are both very cheap conservative spenders.  We both came from situations where we’d seen the ill effects of reckless, live-for-the-moment spending, and before we even became a couple and got married, we had individually come to decisions that we were going to be careful adults, not accrue debt, save money, etc.  In other words, our financial habits were (and are) very, very similar.  In short, we just don’t spend a lot of money, and when we do, it’s almost always going to be on clearance, used, with a coupon, etc.  My husband even asks for special discounts for the heck of it on large purchases.  He just smiles and asks, and the clerk will give him 10% or 15% off.  We regularly purchase from Craigslist and eBay, and I get e-mails from Freecycle to both give away and pick up free stuff that we may need (just got a HUGE box of 3-6 month winter baby girl clothes… so much that I was able to take what I needed, and give away a bunch to two other mothers, too!!).  The only furniture in our entire house that we bought new is my oldest son’s mattress, and three barstools, all from Ikea.  Everything else is from hand-me-downs, estate sales, yard sales, Craigslist, etc.

Something, though, on which we did not agree was in giving.  Martin is a mega-tither and giver.  He looks for ways to be generous to others.  Not me.  Or, at least, not naturally.  I had to learn the benefits of that from him, because before we married (and even after, for a many years), I was an obedient giver, but not a joyful one.  I was begrudging, almost, rather giving with my teeth gritted.  Martin tithes excessively.  Off the gross.  And, off any tax refund.  Tithing twice off the same money!!  Whoever heard of that before?  Not me.  I was in shock.  Plus, yearly, he gives away multiple thousands of dollars, above the tithe.  Many times, especially in our early years, I’d try to talk him into more “sensible” giving.  He wouldn’t hear it.  Wouldn’t change.  In fact, it escalated.  Every pay increase became an opportunity to have more money to give away.  Literally.  I’d think, “Oooh, a raise!  Now we can get…”  Martin thinks, “Oooh, a raise!  All the more money to give away!”

I will admit, there are still times when I mind that he gives away all our money.  I’d really like a new (used!) entertainment center.  I’d like to have money for my oldest son’s new curriculum.  I’d like to have patio furniture, even used.  We need a new mattress.  My youngest son needs a new dresser.  I’d like — just once! — to go on a wardrobe-making shopping spree.  And so on.

But, then I think about the many times that the money we’ve given has been a miracle of provision for the receiver — too many times to count, and mostly too personal to relate here — and giving becomes a no-brainer.  So many times, I’ve thought, “No… no… we can’t afford that.  Let’s keep that money! Just once.  Oh, I don’t want to give it away…”  But, then I have seen the blessing that comes from giving, both for us, and for the receivers, and it has changed my mind.  Martin’s giving has become our giving.  Well, almost, anyways.  It’s still his idea, 98% of the time, but now I always say, with no hesitation, “Yes, let’s.”  Not just because I’m dutifully submitting to him and to God, but because he and God have won me over.

All my years of marriage — 14 of them — I have never seen God desert us.  We’re always provided for.  Always.  We are blessed abundantly.

However, times are really tight.  Really tight.

For the last year, we have found ourselves “x” number of dollars short, every month.  When things just didn’t iron themselves out, and when we didn’t catch up just by “regular” economizing and cutting back, Martin whipped out the budgetary scalpel.

Honestly, because of our naturally miserly ways, we’ve never needed an exact budget.  We just know our income and adjust our expenses accordingly.  But, with our ongoing monthly shortfall in the last 12+ months, we’ve decided to change that.

For a moment, we both thought, “OK, we’re short x dollars.  Let’s just stop giving here, and that’ll cover it.”  No lifestyle change;  we’ll just stop giving there.  You know, we’ll still be tithing!  That’s so much more than many people do.  And we’ll give away some extra, just not very much.

We talked about it at some length.  In short, we both felt like it was just not right to give less than we have in the past.  We felt like, of all the things to get cut, giving shouldn’t be one of them.  We want to give.

So, instead, we’ve been mapping out expenses, peering with a microscope at our spending habits, and seeing where we can shave $$ off.

We’ve come up with a plan that not only accounts for the money we’ve been short, but will allow us to even save money for both short term expenses (like that curriculum), and rebuild our longer term “don’t touch” savings which, um, has been touched.  As in, it’s gone.

And, I’m excited about the budget.  It’s like a challenge.  A game, even.  “Oooh, we’ve budgeted that amount for toiletries?  I bet I can even go under that.”  And, “We spend that much money eating out?  Let’s cut that down by half.  Or more.  We can do it.”

There have been a few tense moments in our discussions, but only a few.  Mostly, we’ve developed this sense of hunkering down together, tackling the problem together, coming up with the solution together, working together.  Money troubles may be the #1 source of dissention between married couples, but we’re finding that it can also actually bring a greater sense of intimacy, if we make it like Team Martin and Karen vs. Team Budgetary Shortage, instead of Martin vs. Karen, each of us fighting for our own pet expenditures.

I’m excited about this new phase of our marriage, excited to work towards a tangible goal with my husband, and especially excited that we’ll be able to work the problem out without decreasing our giving.  🙂

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About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on January 20, 2009, in Christian Living, Encouragement, Get Organized!, Marriage, Shopping, The Dear Hubby. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Giving has been a touchy area for us too because I came from a family that gave regularly to lots of people and ministries (and still do) and I don’t think that his family gave as much. (he really isn’t sure, but from what has been said I would say he is right).

    I will say that our giving has changed over the years, more toward time and sacrifice of ourselves than monetary. We still tithe and even tithe off of refunds,etc. but if I hear of a specific need I will look around until I can find one I can afford or bring meals or little things like that.

    I want our kids to give of themselves, whether it is money or time, and we feel like we should definitely be that example and not someone else.

  2. What a great story, Karen! Congratulations on figuring out how to make it work! That’s half the battle. 😉

  3. Christy ~ You bring up a good point. Hm. We seem to have the opposite problems with our husbands. It’s very, very hard for him to sacrifice his time and self, and that has bothered me many times in the past. I think I need to change how I view him! I mean, God is always challenging us, and He’s never one to say, “Oh, you were just born with that weakness, it’s OK.” BUT, instead of being upset with him not being willing to give his time, I think I need to look at it like, “That’s just not his giving-strength.” Does that make sense? Over even just the past couple of years, he’s really stepped up his efforts to serve with his time and energy, and I think I need to better recognize his efforts, instead of thinking, “It’s about time.” KWIM?

    MLBAH ~ Thanks!!!!! 😀

  4. Huh? He does not sacrifice time? He leads worship. That is giving. You give when he is not home, doing ministry.

    The man who fears God will avoid all extremes . Ecc 7:18

    The whole chapter is good, I read it this AM. In our own life we have adjusted our giving, for us, it equals private school tuition for all three kids, a big chunk of change. Meanwhile, the master bath needs work. So where is a balance? We have always been givers and have been blessed for it. Good blog entry.

  5. LOVE that you guys decided not to reduce your giving. I would want to make that a non-negotiable in any budget reduction I did, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my desire to save up for a comfy chair, visits to my family, or new insulation in the attic would win out.

  6. God is our provision. God asks us to be generous. But I am not sure God asks us to neglect life’s necessities, esp. if it results in a shortfall. That is not faith nor is it stewardship. We are asked to steward His provision for our life, our family, and others.

    As an aside, tithing is not Sciptural as taught in the church. Generosity is. And yes, by definition, we tithe faithfully. (With some slight changes in application.)

    My goal has been to give more each year than the year before. My only little game, I s’pose . However, in looking at this year’s goals I realized I was neglecting responsibilites within my own family.

    I failed to reach my goal to pay off my 2nd mortgage in 5 yrs. However, my giving last yr would have covered 85% of it. So where am I being the better steward?

    So which is better? To give $100 away or apply it paying off a debt earlier. Is it a tough call? Why?

  7. Lisa ~ Well… I don’t think worship, for Martin, falls under the category of “sacrifice.” 🙂 Yes, he spends his time on it, but a) he’s paid, and b) it’s a joy.

    Erin ~ About your list, we’re in the process of evaluating our wants vs. our needs. We both agree that some things that we still have yet to buy are certainly needs that should be highly prioritized. Attic insulation would fall into that category. But, some things which I have desired for years, like a new entertainment center, would be a want and will be less highly prioritized. Trips fall somewhere in the middle, I think!!!

    Stephen ~ Hi! Welcome to the blog. Did Lisa drag you over?? To sort of answer your question… It’s better to not incur any debt! One of the freedoms of being debt-free is not having to be saddled with a conundrum such as you describe. … If a family is giving away all its income, yet itself is lacking in food, shelter or clothing, there certainly needs to be a re-evaluation of resource allocation. One shouldn’t say, “I’m so generous to others! Of course, my family isn’t getting three square meals a day, but I’m supporting overseas missions!” That’s irresponsible, IMO, and, as you suggested, not being good stewards. Back to the idea of debt, this is the first year ever where we’ve not been able to pay off a credit card balance down to zero. So, we’re going to take a loan off of Martin’s 401(k), which we then pay back to ourselves, including interest. IOW, we’re still in debt, but only to ourselves. 🙂

  8. I am a “reasonable giver” too, and married an outrageous giver. And like you, I have learned to value that quality above almost all others. And while we have never gotten rich by giving (as some people teach happens) we have always had enough too. Plenty for our needs and more to share. I get what stewardship is and all that. . .five minutes in my house would erase all doubt about that. But I think the widow who willingly gave her last coin knew even more. I thank you for your honesty and your story–may it encourage others and honor God!

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