(photo source)

As the new year rolled in, many blogs I read shared goals and resolutions for 2012. For many, the New Year brings a time of refreshment, refocusing and sweet new mercies of grace given by our Heavenly Father. Yet even with my yearning to start anew, make my pretty lists, and attack them with fervor, I’m already exhausted. Ladies,  it’s only the middle of January, so that is not a great start.

I crave His promises that are new every, single morning and I’m convinced He calls me to take simple steps of renewal.

The opening declaration from the late Jonathon Edward’s seventy resolutions has been one I claim as my own.

“Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.”

This is my heart felt desire, and so I’m breaking my goals into bite size pieces because the Lord knows that this “Type Z” personality needs to take baby steps in those areas which I struggle.

As we share accountability goals within the Body of Christ, a marvelous sense of encouragement occurs. While I turn to my uber-organized friends for wisdom with my de-cluttering challenges, they turn to me for discernment in the area of finances.

Walking along side other women and encouraging them to steward their resources well has become a calling on my life. The thousands of books written don’t begin to cover all aspects of personal finance, therefore I can’t  do so with just “five simple ways,” but I’m going back to my goal of chewing off bite size pieces, and maybe just one of these five morsels will encourage you.

Pray and Search the Scripture

Our family has walked through seasons of plenty and of want, and He has proven faithful through the most difficult of financial circumstances.

Yet sometimes in the midst of financial disarray, it’s so challenging to see past the mountain of regret for financial choices or circumstances in which we are placed. During our year of unemployment, my desire was to choose joy and fully embrace all that He was teaching me during those really trying times, but sometimes it just dragged on and on. I didn’t understand why it had to be such a long drought, but He knew.

He knew, and this small financial blip in our lives didn’t take Him by surprise.  I knew that His promises remained the same. He was the same; yesterday, today and forever.

With over 800 scriptures on the area of money and finances, more than any other one area in the Word, God wants to speak to your area of need directly. I can’t begin to know what that is, but He does.

He desires you to live in freedom from the bondage of debt, to understand the difference between needs vs. wants and know that He always supplies our needs. Blessings pour out during seasons like this, as we seek Him to peel back the layers of vision.

Philippians 4:11-13: For I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous.

Contentment brings peace.

Plan a Family Meeting; Seek a Mentor

Whether you are in the midst of financial uncertainty or just haven’t communicated on the subject of your own family finances for awhile, I encourage everyone to plan a family meeting. Openly talking about money is often difficult for spouses, yet marriage is a partnership and both parties need to be involved in the process.
Statistically, financial problems are stated as the number one reason marriages end in divorce. Marriage is difficult, even when finances aren’t an issue, so add money stress and lack of communication to day to day challenges and slowly the unified front begins to dissolve.
If you aren’t on the same page financially or are struggling with debt, seek out a Godly financial mentor. Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University is offered in churches throughout the country, and I highly recommend their 13 week life changing program.

Make a Budget: Track Family Spending

Yes, I mentioned I am a Type Z, free spirit kind of gal. One would think I’d run from something that seems so confining as The Dreaded “B” Word of Budgeting, yet there’s real freedom in “telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.” (John Maxwell)

For the last few years, I’ve claimed the word “intentional” in my bio. For many of us, our desire is to be intentional with our time, intentional with our family, and intentional with our choices, so why wouldn’t we be intentional with our dollars? Spend money with purpose and intention.

Give Every Dollar a Job in your budgeting. Dollars are told what to do, and every dollar in our budget needs to have a task. There’s additional freedom in understanding and figuring out what that means for your family finances. It takes time to get it to work for you, but when it does, true financial freedom waits. Yes, I love the word free!

Spend Less Than You Make

That’s the whole premise for saving money.

Why does this sound so simplistic, yet for many, it can be the hardest principle to implement?

I live an 80% off lifestyle. Living an 80% off lifestyle means I save where I choose, so that I can spend and give more generously where I want. This means that I shop thrift as a lifestyle. I dress Frugal Fashionsta style (designer clothes, but all second hand) and decorate with a flare for turning trash to treasure.

While this frugal lifestyle works for me, it doesn’t work, nor is it necessary, for everyone. It’s just another option in refocusing our finances to spend less than we make.

You may need to implement tough love in your finances in order to achieve this step. If you struggle with consumer debt and over spending, it may mean cutting up your credit cards and only paying cash. If you feel as if have already cut all your expenses, then brainstorming an additional money stream to raise your income a bit may be necessary.

Give It To Him

I’ve learned to hold my finances loosely and release it all to Him. Through difficult life lessons, I’ve realized that I can make a budget, communicate with my husband openly about finances, track my spending, live below my means, give generously, and yet still experience harsh, financial uncertainty.

We are merely managers of the resources the Lord has given us. I still strive towards financial preparedness and stewarding my resources well, but ultimately, it is all His.

We own nothing. The house, the portfolio, the paychecks, He owns it all.

Ultimately, this is the most crucial way to refocus our finances: towards Him..

How can our finances bring Him glory?

—————————————————————-

Many of you reading this right now are overwhelmed with your finances, and even attempting a small baby step feels like too much. Know that you are not alone, others have been there, and we’d love to pray with you.

Some of you are just beginning to set a plan in motion for refocusing your finances for 2012 and sharing your goals in written form would encourage others.

I look forward to sharing a bit of life with you in the comments.

Jen Schmidt, just a frugal, thrifting, yard sale loving daughter of the King writes at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

comments:
share:
  • http://charinabrooks.wordpress.com Charina @ Pondered Thoughts

    Jennifer, I just wrote about this in my recent post, http://charinabrooks.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/nothing-but-him/.

    Yes, I find peace in surrendering everything to His will. Nothing but Him…

    All good things.

  • http://www.townsend-house.com Heather

    What a great post! We are in the midst of trying to climb the mountain of debt that we have piled on ourselves. It is definitely a difficulty. Knowing that we have so many set expenses (student loans/mortgage/insurance payments) and not much money left after those expenses are paid. It is hard to see that the places we are able to cut back are our food budget and heat for our home. God will and does provide for us though. This is a season, and we will get through it. I like to instead think about the blessings. The fact that we have a home, and we can block off rooms to stay warmer. The fact that I am able to make more nutritious and delicious meals from scratch instead of buying convenience. And the fact that my husband chooses to have a second job instead of having me go back to work so that I can stay home with our two littles. God is good!

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jennifer Schmidt

      Heather – you are so right. He pours out His blessings on us, even through these times and it’s so wonderful to hear your sweet spirit in the journey.

  • Lisa H

    I need to get my finances back on track. I’d love prayers to help me get there. I need to just sti down and do it, sort it all out and get reorganized again in my bill paying so that I know exactly what and when things go out. I want to get ahead not check to check because that is not healthy for anyone. Especially a single mom of 2 kids. I’ve already decided my taxes this year are going to be the biggest help to jumpstart a new financial way of living by contributing greatly to the cause! Now to just get started.

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jennifer Schmidt

      Your last line says it all, “Now to just get started.” Sometimes that is truly the most difficult aspect, isn’t it?
      There are many good resources that can walk you step by step in that process, but it seems like you already have taken the first steps towards jump starting your new year. Good for you! I’ll continue to pray for your baby steps along the way.

    • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy June

      Lisa – I’m a single mama, too! I promise you can make it work … creativity and serious discipline will get you to where you need to be, then you can start to save for the unexpected. You can do it!

  • Inasimilarboat

    My husband and I need prayer in this area. We have had some major setbacks, and circumstances have caused us to not be able to get ahead. It is so easily discouraging and overwhelming, among all other transitions in life. Would appreciate prayer! Praying for you ladies who made comments above!!

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jennifer Schmidt

      Lord, I pray for our sweet sister that you would guide her during this difficult transitional time. Bring others along side her to be an encouragement, and remove the fear, anxiety and worry that comes with this setback.
      We know that you provide for our needs, Lord and thank you that you are the Great Provider.

  • Natasha

    I’m reading a book right now called “Miserly Moms” by Jonni McCoy – she is a Christian author and it was lended to me from a friend. My friend is an encouragement and inspiration to me in the way that she is a great grocery shopper and is very efficient. I hope this book helps me and possibly some of you!

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jennifer Schmidt

      I haven’t thought about that book in a long time, but I have it right on my book shelf. Thanks for the reminder, I’ll have to dust it off because it’s full of great ideas, for sure.

  • Kathy Deckard

    My husband and I have struggled financially for many years. This has worn me down. I am ready to walk away from our marriage. Prayers would be appreciated.

    • Free By Grace

      Praying for you and your husband right now. Praying that the enemy who has worn you both down in the area of finances would be removed from your marriage. Satan wants your marriage to be broken, are you going to let him have it? Marriage is tough and when finances are hard it’s even more difficult. I encourage you to hang in there, find help, ASK for help and continue to honor your marriage commitment. May God bless you and be with you especially today as you’ve reached out and asked for prayer. Friend, I will pray for you and your husband continually today and ask God to show you the resources you need to help save your marriage. May love and blessings be poured out on you today.

      • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jennifer Schmidt

        Amen and amen!

      • Anonymous

        Kathy,

        Praying for you and your husband. May God help you get through this trial in one piece and together!

        YSIC

        Beth Williams

    • http://www.toodarnhappy.com Kim

      I am so sorry you have had such difficulties. I pray for you and your husband to be able to come together, even if by baby steps at a time, to be in unity against the enemy. I pray that you are able to find a mentor, a counselor, a program or resources to help you through.

      A couple of books I recommend are Divorce Busting by Michele Weiner-Davis (www.divorcebusting.com) and Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Makeover is what inspired my husband and I to face our finances together, and begin down the road to debt freedom, hope and financial freedom.

  • Free By Grace

    Finances are a tough subject for anyone. One thing that I know you missed in your article was the importance of tithing. We are just managers of all that we have. 100% of what we “own” belongs to God. He gave you everything you have. When you get your paycheck all of it is a gift from God. He only asks for 10% of it back though, and if we’re faithful with that He’ll pour out His blessings on us.

    Malachi 3:10 says: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. ”

    Believe me (and I’m being honest here) in this world it’s sometimes hard to see that check go out each week. That check could get us out of debt! But if we did not have to rely on God for everything then what would draw us closer to Him? God guarantees us that He’ll “throw open the floodgates and pour out blessing”!! All we have to do is trust. Trust that His word is true and have faith that God will do what He says. Tithe, (off the gross amount, remember it’s all His) do it for 90 days if the Lord doesn’t bless you (which I know is not true) then stop. But if you find that everything is going so much better, just give Him all the glory for His promises to you. Please also understand that if you’re not giving back to God you’re stealing from Him what is already His. I pray for all of you who are struggling and hope that this will offer some encouragement of what God can do for you.

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jennifer Schmidt

      Thank you for adding this in.

      In my last bullet point – Give it all to Him, and asking the question, “How can our finances bring Him glory?” tithing needs to be the priority and I totally agree. I realized that it needs an entire post of it’s own. Giving generously, above and beyond what we can imagine is truly a desire of my heart.

  • http://www.toodarnhappy.com Kim

    This is such an important topic for the health of the family and their relationships! My hubbie and I are graduates and now facilitators of Financial Peace. The benefits of getting your finances in order are tremendous, and your comment has been true for us as well: there is such freedom in the framework of a budget. That is a long way from where we started. We didn’t even want to do a budget because we were so afraid of what we would find.

    We have found, however, since learning how to manage our money, that couples, including us, found hope again.

    We also discovered that as time goes by, the intentionality of our financial decisions continues to flow positively into other areas of our lives, and into the lives of our adult children. We are more at peace financially, are more content and generous, and are pursuing a life where we are learning to tap and use the gifts and strengths God gave us. We, too, cannot recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace program enough.

    I even wrote yesterday about another ripple effect of being an FPU graduate: An offering of loaves and fish. http://www.toodarnhappy.com/2012/01/16/an-offering-of-loaves-and-fish/

    Thanks so much for covering this important topic!

  • http://bootsonnow.blogspot.com/ Tina

    We have just come out of a year and two month unemploymenet streak for myself. My hubby was still working but our income was cut by a little more than 1/2. Luckily, it was not a crisis for us. We have Dave Ramsey to thank for that. I was able to be a SAHM for a year with my daughter while I was picky about what type of employment was right for me and for the family.

    3 years ago when I was pregnant we read his book and decided to get out of debt before the baby was born. We did, ahead of schedule. We do not use credit cards, we utilize a “spending plan” (I don’t like the word budget) and have never been happier. We paid off 2 houses, 2 student loans., 1 vehicle, 2 credit cards, and one other loan all before the baby was born! It is amazing once you start you just find money.

    I encourage anyone struggling to be accountable to yourself for what you spend. I am living proof you can live on much less, not use credit, and not fight with your spouse about money – seriously!

  • http://www.farfromflawlesslife.blogspot.com Missy June

    When my former husband moved out of our home, I became a single mother of three living with less than half our former income. I always acknowledged that all I had was the Lord’s and trusted Him to meet my needs, but in this position my faith was forced to grow as He demonstrated His care.

    I set goals: give (tithing was a sacrifice at this point and all I could do), eliminate debt, be content. I was so surprised at how the dependence on God re-focused my spending and I was able to filter everything through what He desired for me at the moment. Yes, we gave up cable, extra-curricular activities, eating out, and more. Yes, there were times I served meals that were less than stellar, we learned to be satisfied with hand-me-down clothes and we worked harder than ever to stretch every dollar.

    What a growth experience it was! And continues to be! Almost three years later we have no debt, have purchased a new-to-me vehicle, are satisfied with less and wiser when we do spend. Just last month I signed us up for Netflix which was a huge upgrade for our non-cable, old CRT television. I know others in my family are amazed, and some helped during especially difficult months (though I never had to ask – God just prompted) and it is all because of Him!

  • http://tabrownwv.blogspot.com Tiffany

    I love how the Lord may not always give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need – especially if that’s a word of encouragement. I was happy to see this blog post title as the subject line of my subscription this morning. I’ve been struggling with my finances for a long time & I already know the problem. I’m single w/no children & make just enough to “get by”, but my biggest issue is living within my means & knowing the difference between wants & needs. I guess you could say it’s a learned habit because I’ve picked up the bad spending habits of certain family members & friends growing up. Right now, I’m struggling to surrender it over to God & trusting Him to help me. My flesh knows it will be hard, but spiritually I know I can’t do it alone. I just want to say thanks for this on time post.

  • Kathy

    We have totally lived beyond our means! Yuk! I am searching out a Dave Ramsey class close to us so that we can get back on track! I truely have to figure out the difference between wants and needs! Anyways with God on my side I can’t lose! Thanks for the great post!

  • Jessica Budd

    Thank you for this post. I have claimed 2012 as the year that I stand on my own two feet with God’s support. I am in the midst of a divorce but during the seperation, I continued to lean on my husband’s income. I would spend as if I had the money and then realize that I didn’t. So, I made a monthly budget but then had an unexpected car repair which changed everything. I am still committed to making this work, one baby step at a time. I pray that God will teach me how to become a good steward of what He has given me. Thank you for your prayers.

  • http://therandompath.wordpress.com Mackenzie

    I recently wrote a post about my struggles with consumer debt. Your posting came at a great time. This is just what I needed to hear right now! Thank You! :)

  • http://www.skipperclan.com Tammy

    After wiping out our savings to sell a home due to a military move and back pain that kept me from working much of 2011, we are looking forward to refocusing on becoming debt free with this new year. We have been through Financial Peace and believe in that process. The hard part is doing what we know we need to do…just sought out a mentor this last week to help provide accountability, it is so important!

  • http://www.perceptionsandpassions.blogspot.com Kaitlin @ Perceptions & Passions

    Love this.

    My husband and I are working each day towards shedding our learned bad habits from our parents and to cling to Jesus and smart spending!

    I have recently started meal planning, which has been huge for our young growing family!

    I am also really learning what it means to be generous with my money.

    I have recently sponsored a child from Compassion, and just KNOW that God will use this in my life to do big things!

  • Beth Williams

    Your post is very timely with many many people in debt. Call me a little crazy, but I have always lived with a budget! My hubby and I have a monthly money discussion. I truly wish all couples would do this.

    At one point in our marriage we decided to go COD. We had envelopes made out with various titles: food, eat out. car payment, insurance, housekeeper, etc. We would take the monthly amount and stick it in the envelopes. When the money was gone that was that! It taught us how to watch our pennies, nickles & dimes.

    Everything does belong to Him and we should ask Him before we go ahead & make crazy big purchases.

  • Lisa

    Thank you for your post. We are/have been in a financial downward spiral for about 2 years now. It started when my husband was out of work for over a year and seems to be continuing because even with his new job our income doesn’t quite meet our outgoing.We have both looked at where we can cut back and have made those decisions and I have witnessed God intervening in several areas (mainly not losing our home and car). I am still witnessing Him meeting all our needs, His grace is more than suffient. But I would be less than truthful if I didn’t admit that it’s starting to take its toll on us as a couple as well as our family as a whole. Please keep us in your prayers. It would be greatly appreciated.

  • http://www.momdropbox.com Audrey @ Mom Drop Box

    Such great reminders; thank you for the post. It is amazing how God’s provision combined with good stewardship can go farther than you expect. We have gotten better about budgeting since having children & it has really helped us.

  • http://thisladyblogs.wordpress.com Leslie

    This is a great post. I love this site and all the great advice one can find here. I’ve been a lurker for a while and this site truly encourages me.

  • http://scribblingsfrommybackporch.blogspot.com/ HopeAnn

    My husband and I began in October to get a handle on our finances. You’re absolutely right about finances being tough on a marriage. It’s the one thing we’ve always struggled with. Most of the time we just avoid talking about it. But we decided to close our checking account that was costing us a fortune in overdraft fees and instead opened a free checking account. We went back to the old fashioned paper route of paying the bills because I felt like we lost all control with paying them online. Christmas was tough this year, but still joyous. It seems we’re finally turning a corner. However, lurking around the corner was yet another hurdle…both of our cars broke down within a week of each other, and commute to work 30 minutes each way. Luckily, I have had help from my friends when it comes to rides to work. It seems to always be something. I could really use some prayers to help us stay on the right track and get our finances under control. Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. Thanks for listening.

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam)

      HopeAnn – thanks for sharing. You are right, sometimes it does feel like drowning, doesn’t it, but baby step by baby step, you will get there and when you are finally above water and actually laying out relaxing on land, you will keenly remember this time and all the ways the Lord used this period in your.

      Hang in there,
      Jen

  • Kaye

    I’m a bit late reading this post, but it has been one of many inspirations to keep on going with baby steps. My husband and I are in huge debt, of our own doing. Some unexpected things like illness, but mainly buying before thinking! We are both retired and on a Govt aged Pension.
    We are, as of the past 2 weeks, being helped by a great organisation called “Christians against Poverty” – we live “Down Under”. They have taken away a lot of stress, not the debt of course, but we’re only at the start.
    We have always given generously to our Church and wherever else we could, but we have got to the point where we were surviving on credit. I know many may not agree with me, but to tithe right now, we would have to go into more debt, and having discussed this, we don’t think God would want us to do this. As soon as we are able, we will be giving what we can, and be able to get out of debt, which even may mean selling our house. As we know everything we have is God given, even our home, we are surrenedering it all to Him, and know at the end He will have the glory. We have helped others in the past, and now others are helping us in ways we never imagined. Of course, that is not why we gave, and we have struggles to be humble enough to accept the help we have been given.
    We have been married for nearly 44 years, have adult children and grandchildren, so have been through the many ups and downs of marriage and family – God has always been by our side – even when we pushed Him aside.
    Nearly forgot to mention, we have budgeted before, and now we are back to it, with more enthusiasm than ever. Satan will not win our battle!! The battle belongs to the Lord and He is victorious in all things, whatever the outcome will be for us!!!! Amen.

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam)

      Kaye – you keep pushing on. YOu are SO right. Satan will not win and it sounds like your heart is so right. The Lord will bless your desire to get this debt behind you if you are faithful in those little things (budgeting etc.)

      Have a wonderful weekend.

  • Kaye

    As soon as we are able, we will be giving what we can, and be able to get out of debt, which even may mean selling our house.

    This doesn’t read right LOL!!!

    To get out of debt, we may have to sell our house, and as soon as we are able we will be
    given whatever we can. Hope that makes a bit more sense.

  • Carmen

    Thank you for this post…even though for most of the ones that have posted above and found this right after you blogged, I am searching today for Christian advice and direction and it is “right on time” for me a year later :)

    We are a family of 5…we are Christians and we know HE is our PROVIDER..in the last 7 years we’ve adopted 3 beautiful children and I even got to stay home with one until he turned 4 (as he had health problems when we first got him) I got cancer (and was healed – 5yrs cancer free this week!) and we lost our home…and our car (and other things – but that was what they were – things!) We’ve learned so much through all of this and I learned things as a mom and homemaker that I was never taught. I comp shop and cut coupons now…we all wear (happily) hand me downs and we don’t travel or own expensive cars (or anything) and we live within our means…well, we did. Recently, my husband lost his job of 10yrs (our biggest source of income and our amazing insurance) and while this has been a blessing in many ways (he can now go into full time ministry – started school locally and is taking piano lessons as he helps lead worship in our church/youth (all volunteer of course until he can get hired on somewhere) and he is able to take and pick up our kids everyday instead of us paying someone and he was able to be at his favorite aunts bedside as she passed from this life into her eternal home and he mentors young guys and on and on..things he never could really do since he worked full time. But, as you’ve already guessed..this family of 5 went from a 2 parent income to 1 and mine is significantly less than his was…I am an admin assistant to 3 of our pastors at our little church. I have to say that because of the first portion of this post listed above, and all of the life lessons and handy things we’ve learned, this life”blow” has come as less of a shock than a foreclosure and only having 1 vehicle, etc. We fully trust God and know that He is our main source of everything! We’ve been fine and then all of a sudden…this week…we’ve both began to “freak” out…the bank account is getting lower and it’s getting closer to the holidays and 3 kids birthdays and we don’t have any money in savings what if something happens to one of us…we just aren’t prepared! We don’t have any debt other than the rent we pay and our normal household utilities and gas, groceries, etc. and he is a hard worker and would get a job anywhere at any time…but, we’d be using one of our paychecks just to cover childcare for 3 children! I decorate homes for the holidays and make table arrangements and wreaths and do whatever I can to help us on the side outside of working and being heavily involved in church and he works right along with me to get these tasks done faster and cleans our church for pay (just when they need him) while still being able to attend school, take lessons, prepare for Sunday and Wednesday worship services, take care of our kids, etc. We know that God has called our family to serve Him and again, we know that He has always and will always make a way for us…we just let the whisperers and our flesh and the enemy get the best of us…we are both dealing with health issues right now and so very stressed and covered in worry…we are not supposed to be like this…and we know this! We’ve recently received the Dave Ramsey series and we’ve prepared our envelopes and our binder to begin paying cash only for purchases and we’ve cut down in every area we can…we could make it on my pay as I know there are many that have done it! We just need your prayers! Btw…we do tithe and give as much as we can to those in need and we will always tithe before anything even if it’s all that we have in our wallets! It’s all His anyways! I’ve never posted anything on any site like this…I felt as if I could here for some reason? Thank you so much for your “incouragement” and most importantly, your prayers! We absolutely believe in and have witnessed the power of prayer! IT changes things! Thanks again!

    • http://www.beautyandbedlam.com Jen (Balancing Beauty and Bedlam)

      I am just reading your comment months later, and want you to know that right now I am praying for your family! Thank you for sharing your heart. What an amazing story you have to share with us. :)