Our budget is in turmoil. Okay, not in turmoil just… just shrinking. Now we have to revisit it and tighten the already tight belt. Sometimes I feel suffocated, light-headed, or on the verge of panic when I think of it. The worries come and ask, “What Am I going to do??” Taking a new job has a way of doing that, at least for ministers. We must be the first ones to be willing to take less, and give more. We are willing to help whenever and wherever. We are willing to be the first line item to take the cut until things change. Our hearts are definitely invested and we trust God… but our pocket books… well, the pocket books just don’t agree with you or the math.
So, we decide to redo our budget. The giant question is: What we need vs. what we REALLY need. Forget the needs vs. wants idea… that was left behind like several ages ago… at least 2 decades ago. So much for a temporary thing. Sure we make more than we did when we started, but I can account for that thanks to inflation. (We once made much more money because we were in-between ministries.)
Yet, I have to check myself, because even when “X” amount of numbers in the income line do not exceed “X” amounts in the expense column, and it doesn’t add up… we are some debt because of semi-new/used vehicle. Thanks to the fact that the car that had been paid off for more than 3 years ago went and decided to collapse on our last vacation trip. It just rolled over and DIED. Fixing it was worth more than the car and the amount we had. And in a little town God provided! It was a top notch, last year’s model. Not a High end car but an economical, American car that had what we needed, new car warranty and all for 40% less with less than 6,000 miles. God is good!!
With that said, we took God’s hands and walked into a new ministry. At first we were concerned. Will we have to go back to being bi-vocational? Yes..ugh.. We were wrong, I mean we should and normally would have to, my superintendent would “Highly suggest it.” (Please know that I love my superintendent, and I’m not just saying that because he may read this, because I’m sure he wont..LOL). The thing is that God had gone before us and taken care of our needs:
First, I had paid my health insurance for the year so I don’t have that expense. Since we don’t make much we were able to get a healthcare subsidy, but because it is still so expensive, I went with the lower end of coverage. We save what we can to pay high deductibles. Regardless, I have coverage, not much, but enough to get by.
Second, I had saved every thing I could in preparation for our move. Todd and I both worked at substitute teaching and this allowed me to save one paycheck of every 4 checks. Sometimes 2 of them If I could. I was also able to save my tax return and still able to pay my daughter’s college bill for the semester. (Mind you, thanks for her scholarships, it was HUGE. So I paid it in 3 months time.) Not that the savings will carry us through… it creates a cushion for emergencies even after moving expenses. We just don’t have to worry..much anyways. Somehow God has kept our savings intact even when I have to dip into it.
Third, that new car God provided? Well, my monthly payment is $176. I pay a little more between $180-$200 to bring down the interest as much as possible. I mean, why give the companies more money when all I have to do is pay and sacrifice a little more each month. Over time, most of the money winds up being in my pocket, not theirs. I understand other people wanting to get these expensive cars, with all the high end stuff, brand new or used with many miles at low payment. I learned to take my time, research and yes, expect a miracle of a deal. My vehicle wound up being $10,000 less than the sticker price plus my $5,000 down. I learned that if I can pay a good portion in cash, we can pay off the vehicle in 4 years or less (preferably in 3 yrs average). It must have a monthly payment that is low, really low and reasonable for the type of car, mileage and age. It takes patience, research and lots of prayer.
Fourth, it turns out that the church I am at had a college endowment for students of the church that go to our Nazarene University. My daughter is the only one. It turns out what is given to her per semester is roughly the amount I was having to pay. Plus she was accepted in the internship program so that covered her part. She had not been able to find a job in the Spring while at school so her portion was not in her savings at all. (This is all a God given gift).
Yes, God has gone before us. Yet, we had a part to play. We had to take responsibility as faithful, trusting, called servants of God.
We revised our budget. EVERYTHING was tightened. The question to answer was: What is the minimum we can live off while things were tight. Realizing a second job was not right for now, either one of us. Realizing that the church needed us 100% of the time, and last, realizing and eventually, knowing that somehow God will provide.
In the meantime we have sacrifices to make:
- No eating out weekly much less, daily! We go out ONCE a month if the money is there and we limit $10 per person plus tip. We rotate Restaurant pizza 2x a month, setting a budget for $15-20 bi-weekly and the other 2 weeks, frozen pizza. NO JUNKY fast foods. Eating leftovers or sandwiches when out and about. This means I have to cook more often. That means more time in the kitchen, which in turn, helps me keep it cleaner. So what about groceries? See #2
- No JUNK FOOD! Avoid, avoid snacks, chips, pop as much as possible. This is hard for my husband who grew up drinking sodas like water. I have to limit his intake, which is not easy. So no more 7-eleven, Sonics or whatever… generic sodas if needed all the way. We have Fruits, popcorn and granola bars for snacks. Hey, I suffer too! It means no candy for me. (I’m hoping one trip to ROSS and one bag of their sour gummies at $3-4 a month is feasible.) We purchase everything generic, and frozen vegetables are better and not much more than the canned. Buy on SALE, and yes, on clearance. Right now I’m trying to stay at a $225-$250 grocery budget here in Texas with 4 adults. Luckily, for my budget, one of my girls is going back to college so it will be easier and hopefully the second one will get a job… but she has her own bills to pay.
- Cell phones- I’m highly considering cutting data usage to save us $20 a month and cancelling a phone that is not absolutely necessary. In the meantime we have learned that buying an “AT&T GO” phone for $20 or less, and adding us to the plan saves an additional $15-$25 per person, per month which is added to our “plan.” We spend less on 5 cell phones and plans in a year than some people pay for a single phone. I mean really, add up the costs. Why give them your money for a phone they expect you to throw away. We just keep the phone until it is no longer working. We have saved over $500 a year doing this.
- No ENTERTAINMENT outside the house. Now before you all think I’m crazy or faint in disbelief: Let me say that we do budget for ONE event out a month. But we keep it simple. Beside that, we have found out that our family movie nights consist of staying at home, renting a movie, the pizza mentioned above and popcorn. We have learned that family games, whether it be board games, Xbox or the like, also makes for a great family time. Hanging out together not only brings you closer as a family and adds more fun memories but also helps with a budget.
- AVOID STORES outside of your list. This is is my weakness… I love sales, clearances, antiques, garage sale shopping and more. So I am having to restrain myself to what I need only, or just $20-30 a month for shopping for home and clothing. (Or roll it to the next month for a funner time later). If you are tempted to go to one of those stores just repeat after me, “I DON’T have the money for …”. Also, when shopping, stick to your list as much as possible. Or send the one in your family that hates shopping. They will go in with the list and back without seeing anything else. (Unless you know that there is a clearance in electronics, then don’t send in your husband alone).
- AVOID NAME BRANDS: Don’t get the expensive stuff, health and beauty supplies especially, avoid the fancy brands. Consider a lower cost brand, generic for most. Learn to always buy generic medicines, and such. This will save you half. You don’t really need to go to “ULTA” to buy the items you find at Walmart for 30-50-% less. Basically, be smart. Do your research. DON’T be IMPULSIVE, And if you can’t help it, make sure it is more than 50% off and you NEED IT.
- Credit cards are FOR EMERGENCIES, especially if you are in DEBT. If you know you don’t have the money to pay it in full then don’t buy it. If you are expecting the money to be there the next month due to a bonus, an extra paycheck, a raise, or overtime, make sure that you have paid off your debts first before using it. It is ESSENTIAL NOT to RELY on your credit card for your everyday expenses. Unless your debts are paid and you are in a habit of paying it in FULL, MONTHLY; leave your credit card at home. You can call the credit card company and set a limit that you can afford until healthy habits develop. I started at a $250 limit while in college, than added $250 increments as time went on and FROZE it at $2000 (in case of emergency). That is to say, you DON’T spend your limit, is just there in case you need it. I usually use my credit card for: Christmas, vacations, emergencies, big items and work. (Mostly because I hate to carry my debit card or cash during those times). I make sure the MONEY is available to pay it in FULL on a monthly basis. I just refuse to give the company more of my money. So yeah, they don’t make any money from me. So if you are one of those that only pay your minimum amount, month after month, I’m sure you are their favorite customer…cause the moment you can’t, they will garner your wages and all that interest, you made them rich. Me? well, they won’t get rich from me because I don’t give them a chance. Which means: I get FREE service and they pay me to use their money. YAY!!!
So those are my sacrifices, and our new, hopefully temporary, budget. (Please note that numbers 6 & 7 ones are constant rules for our standard BUDGET)… did I mentioned that I haven’t gotten my haircut yet? Yeah… sacrifices. I will have to wait for Christmas for my perm, and do my own hair dyeing too. I think I’m going to have to use Todd’s hair grooming set to groom my dogs for the next 4 months… that alone will save me $200. That said, I better save for Black Friday as well… (Lucky for me, I do have points saved up).
I say all this to say, God has provided: our home, our food, our medical needs, our daughter’s college bill and more. So, we are trusting in God that all these sacrifices will be rewarded someday. I hope one of those rewards is going on a mission trip back to my Island of Puerto Rico. And when my minivan is no longer running, God will provide us another vehicle.
However, there is one area we will NEVER sacrifice or CUT DOWN ON: Tithes and Offerings. Since God has provided we return to HIM what he asks, what He needs to continue to reach people in our town, in our state, in our country and in our world. He does that through us. As HE has been faithful, we too MUST be FAITHFUL to HIM. So we give 10%, our tithe, and more for missions and special offerings, because we are GRATEFUL and we LOVE HIM.
I Give to GOD because HE has given all to me and continues to provide, daily. I have a new car, a van that runs well, I have no credit card debts, I have a home, yes even internet, food is on the table, our lives are not missing anything. And this crazy unique budget that I have to do… well, I would do it all over again if HE asks. I have FAITH that someday it might be easier and I can then tithe and give even more. Someday, I will be able to relax by the beach and enjoy my family…in the meantime I will dream as I watch a clip of a beach, true HULU (only $6.99 a month). And if I get desperate, there is always the lake nearby…