So last week I got this great email from Jenn over at Living the Good Life asking how I manage not to lose my cool when money seems to be leaving a heck of a lot faster than it's coming in (story of our current lives!). Here's a bit of her message...
"My husband and I have paid off all of our debt with the exception of one car and our house. We're now working to pay that car off and save up as much money as we can so that we can move in the next year but it seems like one bad thing after another keeps happening and I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack watching our savings dwindle down! It's really the most depressing thing. Since the end of May we've had to pay $7k in miscellaneous expenses (car repairs, plane tickets to a family member's wedding, getting a nice family of bats out of our attic, the list goes on and on.)---how do you keep from totally freaking out when it feels like you're just hemorrhaging money?? I know our savings is there for emergencies, but I have such anxiety over all of the unwanted and unnecessary spending. Any advice for me?!"
I totally don't consider myself a money expert by any means, but the hub and I have been to hell and back when it comes to figuring out how to win with money. So for that reason, I'm very passionate about the subject and freaking LOVE to talk about it. So I always welcome any questions on the matter and if our story can help others in some way, bring it. And by the way, being a CPA doesn't mean you're good with money. I mean haven't you seen doctors and nurses outside the hospital doors smoking? Yeah.
We're currently held up in what I call our stuck-in-mud phase of our plan. Which makes it hard to move forward, but we are. Creeping, but moving. As most of y'all know, the hub and I are total Dave Ramsey groupies. Me especially. It's like Jesus, then Dave. And we're currently on Baby Step #2, paying off all of our consumer debt (everything but the house). The hub has been unemployed for about 10 months now - which of course has turned our debt busting shovel into a flimsy plastic spork. So we're really just in survival mode right now until the hub is able to find full-time work. We have been really blessed with some great part-time opportunities that have helped along the way. I didn't think we'd make it past 2009 on my income alone. And here we are, knocking on the door of August 2010.
I can very much relate to Jenn's anxiety. Our situation isn't the same, but you know we girls tend to *freak OUT* when it comes to money (or the lack of really). It's a security issue for us, while it's a pride issue for the guys. So it's totally natural. But how do I keep from letting that anxiety and fear overtake me? I shared with Jenn what have been three personal mainstays in my life over the last couple of years that have helped me maintain peace in financially stressful times...
1. Tithing. Back in October 2008, when we ran our very first (EVER) monthly budget together, we decided then and there to start tithing (giving 10% off the top of our income to our local church). The hub and I have always loved to give when able, but we were never intentional about it before. We don't tithe because it's some item on a checklist of "things Christians do." We don't do it because God needs the money (ha!). It's simply about trust, and that's it. "God, we've obviously been idiots here, so we're going to do it your way from now on and trust YOU and not ourselves." We've been doing this for almost two years and the hub and I agree that is the single best decision we've ever made together. It has truly changed our lives. It looks ridiculous on paper, but that 10% comes right off the top - no matter what. No. Matter. What. We've never faltered on it, not even in months where we had no idea how we'd make it to the next. I can't even put into words the tremendous peace this has brought us. It is not an easy change to make. But nothing truly good comes without great sacrifice.
2. Worry not. Ha, easier said than done, right?! Oh how that worrisome fear can be so overpowering and crippling sometimes. And that's why I must continually drill this passage into my head...
3. Pray. My daily prayer to God is that I seek his wisdom in my everyday decisions with money. That we take all of this one day at a time. That we look to him for strength instead of being handicapped by worry and fear. And to recognize how truly blessed we are that we've made it this far, for the amazing life lessons we've learned along the way, and for the work God has done in our hearts. When you feel overcome with fear, the best thing you can do is get down on your knees.
So there you have it. And yeah I know it's completely engrossed with God stuff. But hey kids, true peace is only found with God so for me, there's no other answer really. I know lots of people out there are struggling financially for many reasons... Maybe it's an income crisis, like us, or perhaps you've got a big storm coming that's going to suck up all your savings, or maybe you've lost everything but the shirt on your back. Whatever it is, terrifying as it can be, there is always hope. You always hear about these people taking their lives over financial crises. Fear really can take your life. The trouble is, they had no hope. There is always hope. You have to succumb to the fact that you can't do it on your own. So get on your knees and ask your Father for some help.
I hope you all find true peace!