Money is something that is often misunderstood. It is a tool, but some make it into an idol to be worshiped and others make its possession into a measure of morality. We all spend most of our day trying to obtain it or save it through work. It is necessary for the basics and luxuries of life. The use of it is widely individual and potentially controversial.
First, a few principles we embrace about money:
1. Money belongs to God, and we are simply stewards of it.
All we have comes from God, and we have devoted our lives to His service (Romans 12:1). We tithe to our local church and give above that to missions or needy people when we are able, but we are also responsible for the other 70 – 90%. We must spend it wisely and in accordance with what pleases the Lord.
2. Money is simply a tool to exchange for things and services we need and want.
Some people act like having money or the pursuit of it are the chief goals in life. We work to earn it and save it and use it wisely, but we realize that the value of money lies only in providing for what we need.
3. Money can only be exchanged for material things which bring no lasting joy or satisfaction.
While I love having a few nice things and our family appreciates regular meals and a warm bed, we realize that we could have every material possession available and still not have joy or an eternal home. The joys of our lives are being in a right relationship with God and each other.
I talk a lot on this blog about working at home. I believe in a good work ethic. I’m thankful for a husband who works hard to provide our needs and to give us a comfortable life. Paul in the Bible admonished the early Christians, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”
Our kids do get an allowance. This is controversial, but they have certain chores required of them as part of the family. All of benefit from all of working together. We base it on their age, and it is withdrawn if they are not fulfilling their responsibilities. It is not a right but a privilege of living in our home.
While I do help with bringing in some of our income, my primary role has always been to save as much as possible. By staying home with the kids, I eliminate some expenses we would have if I were working. By homeschooling, I save the cost of private school education. By cooking and shopping wisely, I save money on our food and on health care. I learn as much as I can about health so I can deal with many of the mild illnesses at home rather than paying for the doctor.
We teach our kids how to save their money as well. When they have $25-50 saved, we open them their own savings accounts. They can draw from them if they are saving for a long term big purchase, but we encourage them to contribute to them often and try to leave them alone in the mean time. 🙂
We have learned the hard way over the years that God’s way is the best way. We do our best now to limit debt to our mortgage only and budget each pay check before we spend it so we can be proper stewards of our money.
We don’t buy toys for our children other than birthday gifts and Christmas and other special celebrations. We give them a very adequate allowance so they can buy their own “extras”. If I do decide to toss in a pack of gum for them at the grocery store, they are well aware that it is a gift and not something to be expected.
We have already talked to our children about debt. They understand that buying on credit is generally unwise. Once, one of them purchased something using our money while at a store, assuring us they had the cash at home. They came up short by several dollars when reimbursing us. We used this as an opportunity to teach them about debt. When allowance time came, I counted out what they would have received, then took back the portion they had “overspent”. “This is what you would have received, but since you spent the money before you earned it, you will only get this much.” Now they are very careful to make sure they have money before spending it.
I’ve already mentioned what we believe is the Biblical teaching of tithing. However, we try to practice giving on a regular basis and teach our kids such. We set a goal for a missionary about once a year and each person contributes individually to the envelope until we reach our collective goal. We also try to give material things to those in need at Christmas time and involve the children in purchasing and distributing them.
I believe that at least some of our money is to be enjoyed. Of course, it must fit into the budget and must not be extreme, but we do try to buy some things just for fun. We budget for vacation and fun activities as well as buying some things we could do without but we enjoy.
I like to practice what I call savor spending. There are few ways this works. Say I have $100 in the budget to go out to eat this month. (I know that may sound luxurious, but this is for the sake of the example.) I can choose to spend it in many different ways. We can get fast food or order pizza every week. Or, we could go out to a nicer place as a family twice in the month. Or, my husband and I could go to a fancier restaurant on a date. It’s the same money, budgeted for the same purpose, but the experiences are vastly different.
Another way this works is for buying the “luxuries”. I’ve mentioned that we don’t like to skimp on coffee. We buy the whole beans and grind them, and we like to get a nicer brand than some grocery stores carry. Fortunately, Super Wal-Mart and a few other grocery stores carry our favorites. Let’s say (again, just an example) my favorite coffee is $10 a bag. That’s a decent portion of a grocery budget for something that does not contribute greatly to nutrition and sustenance. I could, of course, drink less like in the first example. That doesn’t seem like a good option, though. 🙂 So, I can substitute it for something else I would have bought. We no longer buy any pop or juice, so that more than covers $10 for a bag of coffee. If I want to buy a healthier pasta brand, I can just leave off the chips or buy a cheaper version of something else. Organic produce? Buy the ones that really count and leave off the produce that sometimes goes to waste in the crisper.
Resources for Money:
My Budgeting Post: Budgeting Tips for Busy Moms