Friday morning I started to blog about how we are getting through these tough economical times, and ended up bringing up the past. Our life style has changed these last five years, and I think I needed to tell from whence we came to better understand our current mode of living. Basically, we are now truly living by faith. Before moving to Michigan we lived on Paul's salary very comfortably. Our daily needs were met through his monthly income. (Our spiritual needs were absolutely met through faith.) God has brought us to this point in our lives so we see that our TOTAL dependence must be on Him. We live day to day...we don't have stocks and bonds and savings and inheritances to fall back on. That is all gone. Slowly but surely everything was drained from our lives these past five years.
We now live in a much smaller home and with a much simpler life style. Going to church is our social life, our big outing for the week. Now and then we get a treat...a vacation, a conference to attend (at company expense), a program put on by some Christian organization. We don't have hobbies that cost us any money. We golf about twice a year, if the budget is flexible enough to fit that in. We make our clothes and shoes last. They are definitely not in the budget. We've cut out medical expenses, trusting God for good health.
Our monthly budget includes: our tithe (charitable giving), mortgage, compassionate giving (we support two children in Africa), utilities, funeral prepayment, insurance, taxes, satellite service (our one splurge) and our daily expenses. I have all of our regular occuring bills set up on automatic payment, or I write checks the first of each month to make sure the monthly expenses are covered. What I have left after the bills are paid covers our daily expenses. That would include: food, gas, personal care, household items, dog care, any incidentals that life brings. When the vehicles need major repair or maintenance, that goes on the much dreaded use of the charge card, then adding one more bill to the monthly expenses. Ugh. There is such relief when I get the charge card paid off...but then within a few months something comes up that has to be covered by the card.
The flexible spending comes in our daily expenses. I have once again put us back on the envelope system. When our sons were in Junior High, I took them through a Larry Burkett study on budget/finances, and had them learn the envelope system. Each month they had to divide their allowance
into various envelopes (tithe, savings, clothes, personal care, gifts, free spending). They handled the system very well, and were excited when they had money left over at the end of the month. They put the leftover cash into a "rainy day" envelope to use as needed.
Our current envelope system has me taking what's left after all the bills are paid the first of the month and dividing it into four envelopes, one for each week. I keep a list of things we need for household and personal care, and I plan a weekly menu so I know exactly what food items I need each week. When the money for that week is gone, we must wait until the following week, even if that means not buying everything on my list. We will not be eating out or getting a pizza unless there is enough money in that week's envelope to splurge on those treats. This takes discipline and learning to say no and learning how to cut back. It isn't always fun, but there is satisfaction in knowing we are being good stewards of what God has given us.
The bottom line is God is good, He is faithful, and He knows our needs and our desires. He never leaves us wanting or desperate. He takes care of us. He sends us surprise love gifts. He shows us how we can make it. He provides in His own way and in His own time. He has shown us that if we will be faithful to Him, prudent in our financial affairs, He WILL take care of us as we depend on Him. It really does bring more pleasure knowing how dependent we are on Him...and how He provides. It builds and strengthens our faith.
Now that I've written this, it's time to go do my weekly shopping. I shop Wal-mart for household and personal care, and I shop Meijer for groceries. Those two places seem to have the best selections and prices. The key is to stick to my list, and to get the must haves first, and leave items on the list that I can't afford this week...like maybe laundry soap. I tend to buy to keep one item in stock to back up the item in use. I don't overstock for two reasons: I can't afford it, and I don't have the space to store it. Besides, maybe Jesus will come back and I won't need the "stuff"!!
Let me remind you: God is good. God is faithful. God provides. Trust God...He will never let you down or abandon you or reject you. He will always be there for you, forgive you, AND meet your needs. Father God, I praise you today, and love you supremely!