Creating a Savings Strategy with your Husband

Creating a Savings Strategy with Your HusbandIs money tight for you right now?

Around this time of year, money tensions can easily rear their ugly heads in marriage. I spend a lot of time writing about sex, but money is the OTHER big thing that couples often have conflict over. What do you do if you’re a saver, and you’re married to a spender? Or maybe your husband is such a saver that he thinks basic necessities are luxuries (Kleenex? Who needs Kleenex? Toilet paper or paper towel works just as well!).

I also know many of my regular readers are currently dealing with unemployment, or with lower than expected earnings. And so life is especially tough.

My husband and I have lived through every sort of money issue: there were times we had hardly any income at all, and there have been times when we haven’t had to worry about money. We’ve budgeted every last penny, and we’ve splurged. So let’s look at three different money scenarios where conflict can occur.

1. You Have Enough Money to Meet Your Basic Necessities, but You Don’t Save Well

Let’s talk about the basic problem with money in this scenario:

When we have money, we tend to spend first, and then, after we’ve spent, asked ourselves where the money went. Savings usually comes after spending.

We may even do this when we’re budgeting. We figure out what we need for food, and rent, and utilities, and gas, and then we add that all up, and whatever is left over we save.

The savings always is calculated last.

But is savings really our last priority? What if you need to get out of debt in two years? Or what if you really, really want to be able to purchase a house, or renovate your kitchen, or pay for a child to go to school? What if you know you’re going to need a new car in two years?

Chances are that kitchen renovation and that new car (even if it’s a new used one! Those are the only kind we buy) are higher priorities than “entertainment” or other things on your budget list. So here’s what we started doing early in our marriage:

The tithing and the savings comes off FIRST. Before we did anything else.

As soon as we get the paycheque, money is moved into a savings account or an investment account right away, automatically. Even our tithing and giving is done that way; our church now has direct deposit, and the other charities we support are on automatic deductions. So these things are paid for first.

If the savings just sits in your regular account you’ll likely touch it, and it will be difficult to tell how much you have. So move it over! You can open a savings account of course, but in Canada we also have “tax free” savings accounts where you can stow away up to $5000 a year, and the investment income it earns is tax free. In the U.K. they also have individual savings accounts that operate the same way (I’m not sure about the United States or Australia; leave a comment and let me know)! These are great vehicles because the money is put aside, it’s still relatively liquid (meaning you can get it out quickly), but you don’t have to pay tax on the interest. I’m not talking about retirement savings accounts where the money earns income tax free; that’s something separate, and also important. But you shouldn’t use a retirement account for shorter-term savings, so you’re going to need something else.

I’ve heard it recommended that you ALWAYS save 10% of what you earn, and you ALWAYS tithe 10% of what you earn, so you ALWAYS live on 80%, no matter what your income bracket. That’s what I’m raising my kids to do, too–save and tithe off of the bat, and if it becomes a habit, then you just always do it. Of course, the 10% is a minimum; you can choose to give more and save more. But you must always do the minimum, no matter your income, and you’ll find that you don’t run out of money.

Now, if we know our savings is paid for, and we know our tithing is paid for, it really doesn’t matter where the rest of the money goes. If we spend too much on hair cuts this month, that’s okay. If I splurge on Starbucks, that’s okay. As long as I’m not running up a credit card bill, and I’m paying everything off in full, it really doesn’t matter what I spend in each category as long as my savings and givings objectives are met.

'Budget' photo (c) 2012, Tax Credits - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/I never could do that envelope thing, where you spend only a certain amount in each category. I always had too many categories! But what I realized was that if I did the savings first, then it didn’t matter.

This can also avoid a lot of marital fights over where the money is spent. “You bought what tool!?/!” “You stopped at Starbucks again?!?” If you both now your savings obligations are met, then if you each splurge it isn’t as big a deal.

The big caveat to make this work: spend cash. If you spend on credit card or even on debit you often don’t know how much is in the account, and it’s easy to wrack up bills. So I firmly believe in spending cash, I just don’t think that we have to divvy it all out into different categories if we’re already meeting our spending and giving goals.

2. You Don’t Have Enough Money to Meet Your Obligations

Of course, you still must have money in the bank to meet your mortgage obligations or your utilities. You could be going through a period where you just can’t even meet those “must meet” obligations because of unemployment or too much debt. If you’re in a position where you can’t pay the rent, and the mortgage, and the utilities, then you’re in a rough spot. If it’s only temporary, that’s one thing. But in the long run that’s untenable, and creates so much stress. You don’t want to always be paying off one credit card with another, because eventually that will come crashing down.

We all have images of where we want to be financially: we want a house, we want a car, we want certain furniture. Perhaps that just isn’t possible right now. There’s nothing wrong with living in an apartment for a few years to save for a house–even if it means selling your house now. Lots of people grew up in apartments (I did!) and they turned out okay.

I know people who have gotten into worse and worse situations because they just won’t sell their homes and downsize. To them it feels as if they’re failing their kids. Their kids need a big house, and so they can’t leave it.

What your kids really need, though, is stability and an example of responsibility. It isn’t failing to have to downsize. It’s just being responsible. And look at all those little homes that were built right after World War II. They’re tiny–many less than 1000 square feet. And yet lots of families raised 4 or 5 kids in them. That was normal a generation or two ago. It’s okay to go back to yesterday’s normal. Perhaps yesterday’s normal had something going for it–when the house is tiny, people tend to hang out in the living room, so there’s a lot more family time!

Then, when you’re downsized, you can start saving again for your goal of a bigger home. But there’s no shame in living within your means. You’re actually teaching your kids valuable lessons. I know there’s the added complications of moving out of school districts, or leaving friends, but please, don’t risk bankruptcy over maintaining an ideal of what your family should be. And if I could offer a suggestion that sounds radical: move to a smaller town if you have the kind of work that is transportable. Honestly, small towns are so much cheaper. If more people got out of the city perhaps they’d realize how high the cost of living is in many urban areas.

3. You Want to Save, but Your Husband Spends Too Much

The above two scenarios assume that you’re roughly on the same page, and can agree to a savings strategy. But what if you’re married to someone who spends a ton, and won’t agree to save?

This is a tough one and my advice would depend on how dire the situation is. If he is putting you into so much debt that the family’s future is in peril, seek help. Find a mentor couple to come alongside you. And–and I often don’t advise this, but it may be necessary in this case–get separate bank accounts. See if you can get him to agree to having the main family bank account in your name only so that he can’t touch it, and then give him an account where he can have control of some money, just not all. I am a big believer in joint bank accounts, but there is a time where it is not wise.

If he just won’t save, but he isn’t actually endangering the family, then how about talking to him like this, and suggesting, “Honey, how about we figure out what’s reasonable to spend on the household each month, on food, and medicine, and toiletries, and things like that, and then I get that money at the beginning of the month to do with as I please, as long as the house doesn’t run out of toilet paper. Good idea?” Then you have that money, and if you’re really frugal, you can stick what you don’t spend in a savings account. You can become a super shopper, knowing that every dollar you save at the grocery store goes towards your savings goals.

One last rule: like everything in marriage, communication is key. And communication around money is more difficult because we all have different attachments to it. So if you’re going through a difficult conflict about money, work on your friendship first. Try to laugh together. Take walks after dinner and talk. Keep doing fun things together. When there is a foundation of goodwill in the marriage it’s easier to tackle these things. When there’s only conflict, these things have the power to drive us apart.

I have a ton more I’d like to say, but this post is already really long, so I’m going to stop there. But why don’t you chime in–what do you do when you’re on different pages about money? What budgeting technique has worked best for you? Let me know!


Comments

  1. I love all the helpful hints in this post!

    I do have one comment though. An apartment doesn’t always help you save for a house. I mean, I’m in a 2-bedroom with my husband in a town of about 65K (so we’re not talking New York or Orange County prices…), and right now my rent of 610 ($25 pet fee, but we’ll ignore that) is almost $100 more than my parents mortgage payment. Heck, my sister and her husband pay about $800 a month for a mortgage, but the 2-bedroom apartment my parents had before buying this house ran them almost $1100 a month! In America at least, it’s looking like if you have to choose between your mortgage payment or rent, the rent is higher unless you’re in low-income housing or in a sketchy part of town….

    Is that different around the country? I’m in Indiana and that’s what it’s like here. Maybe it’s different elswhere.

    • Katie, that is an EXCELLENT point! I know my daughter is heading off to university next year, and my youngest daughter will follow to the same city two years after that, and we’re seriously considering buying a house because it would likely be cheaper in the long run than all of that rent.

      I think the difference is that normally when people rent they live in a smaller place than the one that they would buy. In MOST markets that’s cheaper. But not in all, especially in some urban areas where the amount of rental property has actually decreased.

      So you have to look at what works for you in your own circumstances.

      There is one time when I would think it would be prudent to rent for a while, though, and that’s when you have no downpayment. I think buying a house with 0 downpayment is rarely a good idea. Your interest payments are just too high a percentage of the mortgage payments. If you can live in an apartment, even if it costs a bit more, for a few years and then save hard for a downpayment, in the long run your payments might be lower, since if you bought a house with no downpayment the majority of your mortgage payment would be interest payments anyway. Does that make sense?

      • It sure does. Putting money down up front is always the better option.

        That’s the only other thing. Down payments. That’s the main reason we have an apartment instead of a house. Well that and you have to have 2 years in your career before you qualify for a home loan. But that’s another story. But if you already have the mortgage payment, renting may not help. Or it might. Like you said, it depends on where you are!

        • learning is fun! says:

          The comment about down payments is key here, Katie. You mentioned what your parents and sister pay in mortgage payments, but you didn’t how much of a down payment they made. I’m also in Canada, so I can’t comment on how things work in the states, but here, if you can’t manage a 25% (I think) down payment, then there’s an extra charge on your mortgage for insurance.

          In a lot of ways, after watching the real estate shows on TV, I think that the approach taken for first time homebuyers is seriously flawed. First, the premise seems to be that, if you’re going to get married, well, you OBVIOUSLY need to buy a house together. Then, they are led to believe that the way to figure out how much house you can afford is to take the amount you’re approved for, and add it to the amount of down payment you can afford. My recommendation would be to take your down payment and multiply it by 4. That way, you’re putting 25% down, and not buying more house than you can afford. Oh, and your mortgage should be amortized over a maximum of 15 years. If the above calculation leaves you with less than enough to find a suitable house, you’re best to keep renting for a while.

          To make matters worse, these same TV shows would have you believe that it’s a great idea to completely renovate a house when you buy it. If the house is THAT desperate for renovations, it’s probably not the right house for you. You should be able to live with the house ‘as-is’ for at LEAST a few years before making any changes (other than paint, and maybe carpeting), unless it’s an issue that has been flagged by your home inspector, and not covered by your purchase agreement.

  2. I love this post on money. Just like sex it is one of those subjects that gets danced around or avoided in some Christian circles. It is so important in marriage to be on the same page where money is concerned. I have been blessed that from day one my husband and I have been in agreement in this area. Still working on others though…
    Kimberly Amici recently posted…Don’t Make Resolutions – Get SMARTMy Profile

  3. As a Chartered Accountant, I have LOTS to say about this subject. Unless it’s a crisis situation, when money is managed properly, it fades into the background and you can focus your energy on things that are more important. When money is mismanaged, it becomes a huge issue and takes over. On my blog, I did a 4 part series on how to get out of debt called Take this debt and SACK it. I also have some savings tips and ideas for teaching kids about money.
    Leanne recently posted…The most effective way to teach kids about moneyMy Profile

  4. We’re somewhere between #1 and #2. I would LOVE to be able to set aside a specific amount each month for savings, as you suggested in #1, but we’re too close to #2 to be able to set aside a large enough chunk that it would seem to be worth it. In other words… I could probably commit to putting away $5/paycheck right off the top, but that’s no where near the 10% that you suggest.

    However, in the midst of all of that, God has been SO faithful to provide exactly what we need, right when we need it. Sure, it’s stressful at times, since we all know God likes to work in the 11th hour, but at the same time, I’ve been able to relax a little more about our finances (not spending willy-nilly, just not stressing out), knowing that God knows our need, and He hasn’t opened obvious doors for other income sources.

    What has worked for us has been a modified envelope system, where we don’t actually pull the money out, but I allocate it on a spreadsheet. After each pay day, we tithe, fill up the gas tank, pull the laundry quarters out, and then shop for as much food for the next two weeks as we can (leaving enough for another trip for produce). After the first week, I go through the bank account and record how much was spent out of each category and on what day. Then we know how much is remaining for the second week.

    I’m also trying to round up a few more piano students, to help buff up our income a little bit. I figure if I can get three to five more students each month that will help us be able to put a lot more into savings, and once we have a Baby Emergency Fund, then we can put that money onto our debt.

    Actually, I hope it’s okay to ask this, but if you could pray that I would have courage to build up my piano teaching business, I would be grateful. :)

  5. Thank you for writing about money! Sex has never really been an issue for us – we’ve had bumps in the road but nothing major – but money? Oh boy, Nuclear Marriage Meltdown. We finally went and met with the financial pastor at our church and she thoroughly kicked our butts. I won’t get into all the details of what we were doing wrong – basic summary, husband is a spender (an emotional spender at that) and I’m a penny-pincher. We both wanted our finances to be better but we were so not on the same page as far as how to get there. A few things we’ve learned:
    1. You cannot spend money to save money. Doesn’t work. If the money isn’t in the budget to buy a bunch of things upfront at a lower per-unit cost, it’s not there. Period.
    2. Skipping payments on things never saved us any money. Ever. Every December we have the option to skip one of our debt payments. Every year we’ve done it. This year we’re not. Because it has never improved our circumstances. You know what does?
    3. What saves us money is tightly controlling our spending. My husband willingly surrendered control of the budget to me because I’m just better at it. No bad reflection on him, it’s just not one of his strengths (he has plenty of other strengths though, he’s an awesome husband!). I nicknamed myself Mrs. Budget. If Mrs. Budget says no, there is no arguing. There is no bargaining. There is no trying to find a better deal. No is no. We both thought that would be really hard on my husband’s pride at first, but when I put it that way, “Mrs. Budget has to say no”, it wasn’t very hard on either of us. It wasn’t me saying no to him, it was the budget. Having to rein in spontaneous spending was hard on my husband at first, but when he got over the hump of the first month and saw the results, he was so thrilled it became a non-issue.
    We’ve had some unexpected expenses recently so we’re not doing as well as we have been, but the difference is we’re getting it back under control before it completely spirals into a crisis. Because when we have money in our bank account and we don’t have to worry about paying our bills, we do not argue hardly at all! Over anything! It’s amazing. Life is just so much less stressful.
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    • Melissa, that is wonderful! But you know what I loved most about your story? The fact that someone in your church “kicked your butts”! This is what I’ve been saying for so long on this blog–we in the church community need to come alongside couples and occasionally kick someone’s butt. If a couple in your church is going through a rough spot because one person especially is doing something wrong (like using porn, or putting the family in debt, or refusing to get a job), then what recourse does the other spouse have EXCEPT to come and get help? But so often that help isn’t there.

      I think that’s awesome that your church had people to help you and come alongside you. We ALL need to be doing that more–not to interfere, but so that people have a resource to find help before the marriage ends.

    • learning is fun! says:

      My own view is that, if your pre-marriage counsellor HASN’T dealt with the issue of money in the marriage relationship, either press the issue with them, or get a new counsellor.

      Couples NEED to be on the same page financially. This doesn’t just mean that they have similar ideas about saving, etc. – it means that they work as a team when it comes to their financial matters. Pay your bills together. KNOW where your money is, and what it’s doing. If you have debt, know which creditors you owe money to, and how much, and work out a plan together to eliminate that debt. The poster above mentioned that her husband surrendered control of the budget to her because she’s better at it. Well, in the short term, that might work – but the best solution is for him to work with her, and let her teach him how to budget.

      The other very important reason for both parties to be involved in the finances is because if something should happen to one of them, the other needs to know what the financial situation is. In the long run, you’re not doing anyone any favours by taking on the financial responsibilities, and leaving them in the dark, if it means that they’re left in a panic, should God call them home without much notice.

      • The reason I am in charge of the budget is because I keep it much simpler than he does. I am not going to get into the private details of our history or all the reasons why. He is not “in the dark” at all. We make every decision together. My goal is to keep things so streamlined that anyone could know at a glance what’s going on. Which I think is just plain common sense.
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        • I know lots of relationships where this is the case. To tell you the truth, I handed over all the finances to my husband a few years ago and I feel so much lighter! It’s great having him do it. I know everything, and can find all our account information if needed, but it was never a passion of mine. It was always a chore. I did it because he had no time. Now that he has time he takes better care of it than I did, and we both feel better. Sometimes one is just better at something than the other, and the great thing about marriage is that we can specialize.

          I do think it’s crucial for both parties to know how much money they have, how much debt they have, and to be able to put their hands on important documents in less than a minute flat. But sometimes it’s just easier for one to do most of the work.

  6. We have been following a budget for the past five years, and it completely changed our lives. Thankfully both my parents and my husband’s parents taught us good money habits, but we still had much to improve on :). We use a virtual envelope system since we also had too many categories, and at the beginning of the month money is allocated into each envelope and we track every purchase through our spreadsheet. Through tracking our spending and living frugally, we have avoided so much stress over the past couple of very difficult years. We pay for a full-time nanny due to my serious health issues, and we also save for retirement and have established a six-month plus emergency fund…and if all goes well, our mortgage will be done in four years. The things we’ve faced over the past couple of years have been very hard, and we are so thankful that God led us to take control of our money before we faced these trials. I can’t imagine how tough things would have been if we had been fighting over money in the midst of everything else.

    If you’re struggling financially, please be encouraged that you can do it! I very highly recommend the Dave Ramsey organization and his Baby Steps program to help take back control of your finances!! :)

    • Great advice! Everybody, you can find Dave Ramsey right here. And we worked through his Financial Peace University DVD set for students with our kids. It’s great!

      • learning is fun! says:

        I’d definitely recommend the Dave Ramsey book, ‘The Total Money Makeover.’ My wife and I just completed baby step 2 last week, as we said goodbye to consumer debt. I’ve developed such a passion for this that I’m putting together a seminar series for our church. I’ve come to realize that debt robs you of something very important: the ability to dream. It handcuffs you, and holds you hostage. When we did our budget and net worth statements, we were shocked to realize how much we were wasting in interest charges and bank fees. We really had to take the approach that Jesus didn’t purchase our freedom so that we could run right into the slavery of debt.

        Because we’re Canadian, some aspects of Dave Ramsey’s plan don’t line up completely with our tax codes. As such, we’ve combined two other sources into our pursuit of financial health: one is a Christian chartered accountant by the name of Tom Copland, who teaches biblically-based financial management, and the other is a TV show host by the name of Gail Vaz-Oxlade, who has a show called ‘Til Debt Do Us Part.’ Funny enough, all three sources (Copland, Ramsey, Vaz-Oxlade) have a very similar message, just presented a bit differently.

        • Good for you – I think it’s so important to share this info! We were actually planning to fascilitate Financial Peace University at our church starting next month, but it turns out it’s not allowed to be used in Canada at the moment. BUT, we were told that a Canadian version (with Canadian savings, investing, etc. and without the name “University”) is in the works, hopefully by the end of next year! :)

  7. ButterflyWings says:

    I love your post… just not sure if the advice for situation 2 is applicable for many people.

    While most people reading this blog have never been a single parent, I have been. And there are times in life where you don’t have enough in life to meet your obligations and have nothing to downsize.

    I lost my first husband when he abandoned us for his mistress. I live in Australia (btw there are no tax free savings accounts here in answer to your question) where refusing to pay child support is not a crime. All the child support agency can do is make an assessment on previous tax returns and if the person refuses to pay, they can make an order for their employer to take out payments – this process takes 6 months and if the person finds a new job in that time, the process starts from scratch. They do accumulate a debt, but child support is extremely low (ie if the person earns under $30,000 a year, they only pay the minimum of around $25), and if they con the family court into letting them have the child every second weekend and half the holidays (something even violent child abusers and paedophiles get here), they are assessed as having shared care and don’t have to pay child support.

    Also, if the person deliberately gets fired and refuses to work and goes on welfare, they also only have to pay $25 a month and don’t accumulate any debt as they are only asked to pay $25 a month.

    And when child support finally is paid, anything over the minimum $25 a month comes straight out of family assistance payments (a welfare payment for any family – one parent or two parent – the government pays if the family earns under $150K) so unless your ex is a millionaire, getting child support is of little financial benefits.

    Sole parent benefits cut off when your child turns 8 and are unlivable on at the best of times. After your child turns 8, you are only eligible for unemployment benefits (no sole parent assistance) and the “dole”, as it’s known, is not livable on when you have a child, no matter where you live or how tight you are with your money. It’s designed as a very short term payment to force people to have to get a job.

    I personally was never a sole parent welfare recepient – I am disabled and unable to work, so I received a disability pension. And as a sole parent, I got the same amount as a disabled person with no children. Our disability payments amounts are a standard amount, not based on need. And since we supposedly live in a country with “free” healthcare, there is no consideration for people with complex and multiple health problems. While we have “free” healthcare, this doesn’t take into account that medications are subsidised for pensioners not free, and not all are subsidised. Some GP doctors are free, but few take new patients, and in years of being ill, every time I finally find a decent free one, they decided to no longer be free or they retire, or move away or take a couple of years of maternity leave etc. There are also certain risky procedures (eg I have to get injections in my back every few months) that most doctors do not do, aren’t willing to do, and even if they did, I wouldn’t let most of them, and no free doctors offer these procedures (as they have to pay extra insurance to be allowed).

    Also, the only specialist doctors who are free, often take 3-10 years just to get an appointment, then 1-2 years to get scans like MRIs for free, and then many years more for surgery. I am now crippled for life because I couldn’t afford to see a private doctor sooner, and the damage done waiting years in the public system was unfixable. There was no way my first husband and I could have afforded $100k+ for surgery I needed.

    And taking out health insurance doesn’t help the situation either here. Health insurance doesn’t cover outpatient visits or scans or outpatient procedures. I have recently just spent $200 an appointment to see a private orthopaedic specialist because the public specialist I waited two years to see was incompetent (and the second opinion was equally was useless, with both specialists saying “we’re not sure), and after paying hundreds to get yet another MRI, and another $100 to see the specialist again, I now have to pay another $100+ for a diagnostic procedure. Health insurance in Australia only sadly covers inpatient things like surgery etc, and even then, you have to make large excess payments.

    When my first husband abandoned us for his mistress, he had run up a lot of debts in my name. With my tiny disability pension (it pays lousy here in Australia), and very little child support (years of none at all), huge medical expenses that were unavoidable like life saving meds and having to see a GP regularly, as well as lots of therapy bills for my daughter’s problems (again, not covered by our “free” healthcare system or health insurance), I couldn’t pay my medical bills and normal living expenses bills and the interest on the debts my ex ran up.

    We had no house to sell. I eventually did sell my car – I got $100 for it. It was worthless, and if it wasn’t for my parents’ generosity in buying a new car for me, I’d have got into even bigger financial mess as there isn’t a decent public transport system in my state, and taxis cost the earth. I had no possessions of value – my ex took everything of any value.

    My daughter and I had no assets, little income and huge unavoidable costs. I am not bad with money. I was a maths major at university and have done volunteer work helping people with their money because I’m quite a whiz at it.

    I always made it a priority to pay my tithe, just what I ALWAYS tell people is that it’s actually more effective to pay debt than to save. When you have a credit card debt for example (as I have had that my ex ran up in my name) where you’re paying 20% or higher interest, it’s far better to pay that off than to put the money into a “high interest” savings account which is 3-5% interest at best. Even car loans and personal loans are still 10-15% interest. Even a mortgage is around 6% here.

    The best set up (if you have a mortgage and aren’t renting) is to have a mortgage with a redraw facility and rather than having a savings account, put all your savings and anything extra you have onto your mortgage – that way it is there in an emergency (or if you’re saving for something specific like a car), but while you’re not using it, you’re saving huge amounts of interest on your home loan which can up to huge amounts of both money and time saved on your home loan.

    If you’re totally debt free (no mortgage, no credit cards, personal loans, car loans etc) then set up a savings accounts.

    But anyway, I got off the topic of what I was originally posting about… sometimes there are circumstances in life where your expenses are bigger than your income, and for some people, this is a long term or even permanent thing. I can’t work due to my ill health – it’s not from lack of trying to find a job I could do. I constantly try that. I’ve tried working even just a few hours a week and have just left a job because I couldn’t even do that. Not just because of my ill health, but my child’s health needs me at home for her too. I have nothing left to sell and I don’t waste my money.

    We can’t move somewhere cheaper because this is as cheap as living gets in any town bigger enough to support a hospital, and we need to be reasonably near a hospital due to our health. And researching small towns… it would only be a few dollars cheaper to live there in normal expenses, and health expenses would skyrocket, so we’re better off financially staying where we are.

    I have managed to stave off bankruptcy for a few years by being a whiz with money, but even I couldn’t have lasted more than a few more without becoming bankrupt, penniless and homeless.

    I got lucky – I met a wonderful man who I love dearly but not everyone is so blessed. Even in first world countries, there are people who are homeless and broke through no fault of their own. Sadly most of them are people like I was – single parents who had husbands/boyfriends who ran them deep into debt before abandoning them or forcing them to flee due to abuse, and who can’t work because they have health problems or their kids have health problems (or both), and our government won’t support them, they get little or no child support, and there is nowhere else for them to turn to. It’s sad that churches here have to offer breakfasts at schools once a week here because many parents can’t afford to feed their kids breakfast.

    What can one do when has nothing left to sell and their genuine necessary expenses are bigger than their income? when there is no way to lower expenses or increase income? I see it happening more and more and I didn’t have an answer when it happened to me, and I don’t have an answer when I see it happening to others

  8. We’re a 1.5 -savings is not a priority right now because we have more debt than we want to be so we are working to pay off credit cards. I don’t see student loans (or car payments, when your household income is low- ours is) as “bad debt”- but credit cards, etc are another story, and that’s what we’re trying to clear.

    HOWEVER, I do think it’s really important to have an emergency savings fund for, well- emergencies. Right now we have a month’s worth of expenses- car, rent, utilities saved up. After Christmas we’d like to get it to 3-4 months.

    Also, we don’t tithe at 10%. Quite frankly, we would be relying on assistance if that were the case. So, we tithe in accordance with our splurges. If I buy new jeans for $40, I give $40 to our church; if I stop at Starbucks, I give whatever I paid for the drinks back to the church, etc. So, sometimes it’s much more than 10% (like now, when we are matching our Christmas spending) and sometimes when money is especially tight, it’s much less.
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  9. We also do a modified “envelope” system using a spreadsheet. We tithe, save, and try to budget for each category. We are not always right-budgeting for medical or repair expenses is very hard-but by recording everything in the spreadsheet we know where the money is coming from. Also, since it is a spreadsheet, we can let some categories go in the red if need be. We try not to do this often, but sometimes a Costco trip or an expensive birthday dinner will upset a category. We then roll over the numbers each month and simply have less to spend then. That may not work for those struggling with over spending, but it works well for my husband and I. Also, our income has been rising over the last 2 years (new college grads working our way up) so the spreadsheet help us see where we are consistently tight on money and add there, or occasionally, move money from a surplus account to savings.
    They key is open and prayerful communication. My husband Nd I prayed and talked when we set the budget but now I have complete control of household expenses so long as it fits that budget.

  10. I was a banker all my working life so budgetting was never a problem. Some tips from my experience.
    1. Set aside money each month to meet those bills which come up less than monthly, car insurance, house insurance, property taxes, hydro, water, etc. Then when the bill comes in the money is there.
    2. Use computer software to track your spending and to set up budgets. The one I use costs around $100 for 3 years.
    3.Most important bring GOD into the equation. Item #1 should be a tithe of 10%. Gross or net? A pastor teaching a budget course once said “Do you want a gross blessing or a net blessing?” It is surprising, but not really when you think about it, it WORKS. God loves a cheerful giver. Since we started tithing cheerfully we have been blessed (not to hoard up stuff for ourselves but to bless others). We can now give about 18% annually. When you realise that we own NOTHING, that we are merely stewards of the resources God has given us, then it is easy to give it away. We have had some very heavy dental expenses in the last few years but we have not gone short of any needs; note NEEDS not WANTS.
    God has blessed me with a wife who, like me, is careful with money and spending, so we were on the same page from day 1 of our marriage.

    • I heartily agree! I think the 10% is a guideline and a minimum, and that we should be giving more–giving until it hurts. It’s called “tithes AND offerings”, after all.

      One thing I’ve found with tithing: it’s really about faith. God asks us to give it FIRST, not LAST, because He’s saying, “do you trust me that I’ll see you through until the next money comes in”? And when we do trust Him, amazing things happen.

      I have known many people who say, “we don’t have money to tithe right now”. In very exceptional circumstances that may be true. But so much of it is a choice of how we live. And when we consistently choose to give money, even if we don’t have very much, our attitude towards money changes. And God does show up.

      Most of us do not give. And we can always find reasons why we can’t give right now–I’m saving for a house; I’m paying off a house; the credit card bills are too high–but ultimately we have to ask whether it’s our money or God’s. And I do think that God blesses proportionally for how we give.

      Some people can’t give money, or they give money in other ways (for instance, one spouse may stay home instead of getting a job so that they can foster parent). Sometimes the biggest gift that you give is your time. Or there are people who give by joining a ministry rather than getting a high paying job. It’s not necessarily those who give the most money who give the most; it’s what we do with ALL that God gives us.

      But He does specifically talk about money, and He asks us to give it up front. That’s scary, but maybe it’s supposed to be. Because life is supposed to be by the Spirit, not the flesh, and that means learning to trust!

    • ButterflyWings says:

      D what do you say to those who are good with money, who do tithe happily and who cannot afford necessities?

      I’m talking about necessities like desperately needed medical care. I’ve been there. I tithed and gave offerings generously but was not blessed financially or materially. In my case, the choice to tithe or not tithe was irrelevant because my income was so little that even not tithing wouldn’t have been enough to get medical care. and as a result I will spend the rest of my life in constant agony from medical conditions that could have been fixed if I could have afforded medical care before it was too late. I could not get the money anywhere, not given, couldn’t even get a loan for it. My tithe and offerings came out of other things most people consider necessities like heating in winter etc. I’m sure there will be a reward in heaven, but in this lifetime? I haven’t seen it yet and nor do I assume I will.

      God doesn’t always “show up” in the way we want. God always answers prayers, but simply sometimes He chooses to say no. People suffer, people die, sometimes purely due to lack of money to access medical care. Everything happens for a reason, but sometimes that involves suffering.

      • ButterflyWings, I am truly sorry for all of the hardship you’ve had in your life. You’re right; God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we would like. I have a son in heaven. I prayed so hard that he would survive his surgery, but he did not. Life sometimes is just very rough.

        However, I’m very reluctant to start giving “ways out” of things that God says, like “of course, if you’re in dire straits you don’t need to do this”. Obviously there are always exceptions, but those exceptions are a tiny fraction. And the problem is that as soon as you start giving an exception, then people who shouldn’t really take that exception do.

        We can never, in a blog post, leave room for all of the contingencies that can happen. That’s where it’s up to the readers to take what they read, pray over it, talk to God about it, and then ask how they should incorporate it into their lives.

        But I would say that in times that are particularly difficult that is where the church should come alongside people to help. I’m sorry if that didn’t happen in your case, but that would be the biblical ideal. So what I would say to everyone is this: take the initiative to find a church that is truly caring. Become part of that caring community. Share what you do have. Serve. Plug yourself in. Get to know people. And then, when you do need help, ask.

        I know some church communities are closed and not helpful, but then take the initiative either to change it or to find a new church community. Don’t always see the negative; seek out the positive somewhere else. No one else can do that for you, so you take that initiative.

        Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s unfair that not all Christians are loving. But I’m afraid I have no other solution other than the Christian community, and so I do think that it’s incumbent upon every Christian to find a healthy community, and then to contribute as much as he or she can. That’s the model that Christ left us for how we are to care for each other, and where we should seek help, and I think if we were all in healthy Christian communities then when we do go through financial turmoil or crisis there would be somewhere to go for help or guidance.

        • Butterfly Wings, what Sheila said is true the church should help. In 2001 our church did just that and set up a fund for the purpose of helping those less fortunate. We have provided money for food, furniture, rent/mortgage payments, medical/dental expenses, care repairs, emrgency travel, you name it we have done it. It is a faith ministry entirely, it is not part of the budget. Yet every time we have had an urgent need, God has moved people’s hearts and the money has come in to meet the need.

          • Sorry, I meant car repairs!

          • ButterflyWings says:

            I went to the same church for the first 30 years of my life. Many within the church were well aware of the dire financial straights I was in – that my exhusband had run up huge debts with high interest in my name before we separated, that I was unable to work due to injuries he have given me (and that was waiting on surgery/recovering from surgery multiple times), that my daughter had special needs and needed therapy, that we both were traumatised and needed professional counselling (which is not free anywhere) and that the pensions here in Australia are quite simply unlivable unless you are completely healthy and don’t require any sort of therapy or other medical bills.

            The only time I ever got help was a single food parcel when someone (I’m pretty sure my brother as he interned through the church for bible college) told them that it was so bad that I couldn’t even get food – credit cards maxed out, charities here have a system where they will only help people twice within 12 months and I’d been to every single charity within a distant where it wouldn’t cost more in petrol than the food they gave us, family unable/unwilling to give/lend any more help.

            To a church I had given my whole life to at that stage – tithing from any money I earnt (I don’t tithe from payments made on my daughter’s behalf such as child support because I am accountable to the CSA to show where the money gets spent), spending from when I was just a child myself volunteering within the church – I started doing creche ministry from the age my daughter is now, I became a leader in outreach ministries, part of the worship teams, and on and on.

            But when I couldn’t even afford to pay my rent or electricity or buy food many times over a four year period, only once did they offer to help, and only because they were shamed into it by a loving relative who was unable to help me himself as he was a full time student.

            Other big local churches had helped me out occasionally in the past with things like food parcels, but they all pretty much have the same thing about it only being food parcels and only helping out families 2-3 times a year maximum.

            It’s supposed to be so people don’t become reliant on charity instead of trying to provide for themselve, but it doesn’t take into account people who genuinely can’t work and genuinely have lots of expenses that are beyond their control.

            I ended up returning to work 1-2 days a week against medical advice, but the toll was too much physically. During that time, I was able to just slowly start getting on top of debt until another surgery forced me to take time off and couldn’t keep up with the interest.

            I don’t think any church would have been willing to pay the tens of thousands (or more) dollars for the surgery I required before it became too late to fix those health problems, but I wish they’d been there to help me when I couldn’t afford food and rent.

  11. Great post and great comments too! It’s like a huge financial library in here :) Thanks so much. My one huge takeaway, on top of these other great advice – goodwill is key! I love that last paragraph. That’s where it all begins. (or ends..lol)
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  12. My husband and I are both the saving type. We also tithe 10% and save 10% right off the bat, and try to put as much money as we can on student loans. We have two young kids and have been married for 4 years, and we will soon be debt-free even though we started off with a car loan and a good amount of student debt. We’ve lived in apartments and are looking forward to owning our own home in a year or so. Something that has helped us stick to our goals is each having an allowance! It might sound babyish to some people, but it’s great! We each have our own checking account in addition to our shared checking and savings accounts. At the beginning of each month, we direct deposit a specific “allowance” amount into those checking accounts. That amount has differed through the years. It could be $15/month or $100/month, but it still allows us to feel like we have some money of our own to spend on whatever we want. I don’t hear a word from him if I bought another necklace, and he doesn’t hear from me if he buys another techie gadget.

    • ButterflyWings says:

      It’s not babyish at all. It’s a great strategy used by lots of couples. The only time I have ever seen it become a problem is when couples disagree on the definition of a necessity versus what should come out of an allowance.

  13. My husband and I are still considered “newlyweds”, but from the very beginning of our marriage (starting with our engagement) we have talked about money. Money expectations, money spending, and money saving. We don’t talk about money once a month, or once a paycheck – we talk about it practically EVERY DAY and if not that definitely every other day. It’s a part of our daily conversations. I think that it works well because we always know what page each other is on. Even if it’s not the same page!

    The BEST thing we are doing right now is paying off ALL of our unsecured debt. Not only is it good for us in the long run – it’s kind of exhilarating! Each time we pay off a credit card or loan we GAIN liquid income in our budget. Some of our credit card payments were as high as $200/month. When we zap it, we have $200 to re-budget EACH MONTH! I love knowing that we don’t have to pay high interest fees or any other fees for that matter! After all our unsecured debt is paid off, we are saving our pants off for a new home. Most financial advisers recommend that you pay off debt BEFORE you save. Maybe not all, but that’s the advice I hear the most.

    Also, I must say that the MORE responsible we have been with our money. The more that we have been blessed by the Lord. I’m not saying that if you’re responsible with your money that God gives you more. I just know that we have drastically noticed a difference in the blessings that have been poured out on our family both spiritually and financially as we have been really committed to our goals. I do believe that the Lord delights in our responsibility and when we truly commit to making our money (whether saving, spending, or giving) something that we worship Him with!

  14. Do you have any thoughts on tithing in an unequally yoked marriage? I am a Christian and a stay at home mum – my husband is an atheist and the sole income earner for our family . I have an allowance each month and I give money to my church from that but there is no way it would equate to 10% of our household income.

    Likewise I can’t devote a lot of my time to my church because it would cause problems in my marriage.

    • I think you’re in a totally different situation, and it sounds like you’re handling it really well. You’re tithing on YOUR income, and you’re not spending so much time at church that you alienate your husband.

      I think that would be the proper order here. You must first honour and respect your husband in this circumstance. If you were to give money away and he didn’t agree, you’d be endangering the marriage. So I think you’re doing the right thing, and God sees your heart, and will honour you for it!

  15. Like Sara and her husband, my husband and I also have three checking accounts: yours, mine, and ours. Paychecks are deposited into the joint account, and bills/household expenses/etc. are paid from the joint account. An “allowance” is transferred to our individual accounts each month; this money is used at our own discretion, without having to check with one another. It gives us each some freedom in spending, and it keeps me (the one in charge of our finances) from nagging and worrying.

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  1. [...] about it.  But she also writes about other stuff too, and she just posted a great entry about Creating a Savings Strategy with Your Husband.  I love that she reminds us to always save first and not last.  Bray is so good about that, but [...]

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