Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Finding Financial Hope in a Season of Spending


It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year...or so they say. Although Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of the One who brought Hope, when you're struggling with your finances, Christmas can seem like the most hopeless time of the year. As a parent, you feel compelled to not only give great gifts to your children, but also to their teachers, your co-workers, and numerous other people.

Last year at this time, I was buying Christmas presents and praying like crazy that we wouldn't max out all of our credit cards. Things were extremely tight, yet I felt like buying cheap gifts for my friends and family or sharing with them that I couldn't afford to buy Christmas presents {GASP!} would be an admission of my failure as an adult. So I continued on, buying gifts we couldn't afford, buying extra groceries we couldn't afford, and pretending that all was well in our world! Our finances were a disaster!

By the time Christmas came and went, we had no money in our checking account.

On New Years Eve day, my husband Fred headed out to run some errands. He came home with a book (purchased on a credit card) that would rock our world and change our finances. He purchased Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. He started reading it as soon as he got home and then handed it to me and asked me to read the first 4 chapters. Not only did I read the first four chapters, but I finished the entire book in one setting. And I began to feel the stirring of something I hadn't felt in a long time...HOPE.

Hope
that we might not be in debt forever.
Hope that we might get our acts together.
Hope that at some point our finances would be in good enough shape that we could adopt again.

When we sat down to figure out where we were financially, I felt extremely torn. I wasn't sure I wanted to know how bad it really was. I knew that our monthly spending exceeded our income, but I wasn't sure what the big picture was. It was REALLY ugly. The reality is that the amount of our debt surpassed a full year of income for my husband and I combined...and that wasn't including our house. There were lots of things that contributed to that amount of debt...our adoption, the house we live in (that ended up needing $30,000 in improvements to make it livable instead of the $10,000 we planned on), and some poor choices in spending (eating out more than we needed to and trying to keep up with the Joneses).

This year, we have worked and planned and saved and been more creative than we have ever been. Was this an easy year for us? No. Our house flooded and we lost over $30,000 in belongings (our insurance for our basement was only $10,000). We had some health issues that came with some major bills. We had some dental issues that came with some more crazy bills. And on top of that, we got a letter from the IRS that due to some incorrect paperwork, we owed a TON of money! If any of this would have happened during the previous year, I'm not sure what we would have done. I just know that it most likely would not have had a happy ending.

Are we where we want to be financially? Not yet, but we now know we WILL be able to get there. Here are a few differences between last year and this year.
  • The feeling of hopelessness is gone.
  • This year's Christmas shopping has been stress-free (partially because I purchased things throughout the year when I found them at rock bottom prices).
  • We don't need to use credit cards anymore because we are living within our means.
  • I don't dread opening the mail box because I know that we will be able to pay our bills.
  • I am able to stretch my dollars further than I would have thought possible.
If you are feeling the burden of finances this Christmas, I'd like to encourage you that there is hope for you too. Jesus came to bind up the broken-hearted and to proclaim liberty to the captives. I felt broken-hearted and imprisoned by our debt and finances, yet that is not God's desire for us.

On a practical level, there are quite a few things you can do.
  1. Write down (or track online) everything you spend for one month. It will make you think twice about buying frivolous purchases and it will enable you to see areas where you can improve on your spending.
  2. Use coupons. Don't go crazy, just try to reduce your spending by 10%. If you don't have time to figure out where the good deals are, consider subscribing to The Grocery Game. They have a list each week that matches up that week's best deals with coupons to give you the rock bottom prices. You can get a 4-week trial for only $1. (I wouldn't bother with the CVS or Walgreens subscriptions as there are tons of blogs that provide the best deals on these stores each week).
  3. Come up with a plan. I am quite partial to Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. His advice is practical and biblical! {He's also doing giveaways on his site every day between now and Christmas}.
  4. Stick with your plan (see number 4)! Facing your finances is tough, but it's so worth it!
  5. Find someone who will encourage and support you. If you're married, you and your spouse can hold each other accountable. If you're single, find a friend you can confide in.
I hope you will begin the journey to get your finances in order. If you need encouragement or some suggestions, please feel free to email me. I'd love to help in any way and I'd be honored to pray for you. I don't have it all together, but this is what works for me!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday over at We are THAT Family.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Wanda said...

Thank you Lisa! We are sitting in financial disaster land right now.
My husband lost his job in 08 and we are still trying to bounce back (with 3 teenagers...1 that is in college).
It's depressing! But we do have hope.

Our issues have been very similar to yours. A sewer line burst and destroyed the downstairs of our house. We were only able to get $5000 for the damage....which cost us over $15,000 and we did all the work ourselves.
Health costs, dental emergencies, automobile repairs.....life just happened!

We're learning what's important and not!

December 9, 2009 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Kaye said...

Great reminder at an appropriate time for so many. Thanks for the insight.

December 9, 2009 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger Sarah Mae said...

We found that book as well and WOW, yes, gave us a vision for our family and future.

Great post!

December 14, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Blogger Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

Hi Lisa,

What a great story you have! Thank you for the encouragement - and the practical tips!

December 21, 2009 at 3:55 PM  

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