Discovering Financial Peace When We Live Within Our Means
I recently drove out to Carrollton, Virginia to visit my friend Rachel Compton to discuss how living within our means leads to financial peace. Rachel and I first met each other a little over two years ago when I started work at Sisters Unique. During my time there I couldn't help but notice Rachel's unique spending habits. She did some shopping at Sisters but not before going home and seeing if: one, something else could make do and two, checking with her husband to make sure that it was within their means for the purchase. This astonished me. While I would occasionally ask my husband permission before making a large purchase more often than not I would go for it. I wasn't necessarily careless with my purchases but I would rarely bring in a second opinion for fear of the dreaded "no". Though Rachel was often able to make her purchases sometimes she had to respect the "no" and did so with such a sweet heart; radiating a sense of financial peace.
This act of patience and submission is no small feat in today's consumerist culture where we are encouraged to have a "more is more" attitude. We see lifestyles portrayed on T.V., Instagram, magazines, and in stores that suggest that everyone lives this way: designer homes, huge closets, a garage full of cars, and bins for of electronic toys. It's all at finger tips, right? Just a swipe of that plastic credit card and we are good to go. We all are aware though that this is not the case and that while we may get that initial shoppers high, we are left with a sense of guilt, anxiety, and depression when we realize that we have stepped outside of our financial boundaries. It’s easy to view these boundaries as burdens, as robbers of fun however when we stay within in them on a consistent basis, we learn to love the authority that they encourage. We have a sense of peace.
I wanted to learn more about how Rachel had gotten to this point and so a couple of weeks ago I drove out to visit her in her home to see how she was doing it. Rachel shared with me that getting to this place of respectful submission and financial peace did not happen overnight but was a result of trial and error over the years and a growth in communication with her husband. "He is a saver and I am a spender, but working together has been good for both of us" she explained. "You know, the Lord has provided for me but I shouldn't be foolish with His resources. Jonathan has helped me grow in that area. It’s been through many errors I painfully learned, and honestly, am still learning. Without seeking his counsel on something, I would buy what I wanted, but they were things we didn’t need or have the money for. I knew I was in error and have even hid some purchases in shame. Other times we’ll agree it’s not in the budget and I’ll buy it anyway because it’s a good deal. There is no peace in that! I am learning to respect my husband as the head of our family; to trust his wisdom in timing; to remember our goals we set together; and learning that my deceit and impulse buys were selfish and unhealthy for me.” We both agreed that when we do step out of those boundaries it is wrong because we know we have disrespected our partners and placed an unnecessary burden on our family. Knowing what you value is huge.
When we were as Sisters Unique I admired how respectful you were of Jonathan and the financial boundaries that you set into place. I would try to do the same with my husband Kyle but it was challenging, especially when he said "no". It sometimes made me feel that if I don't get this now I'll never be able to get it again. This is not a way to live though - that's living in a place of fear.
I’ve totally been there. It's hard when they say ‘no’. But we need to hear it, don’t we? We want to purchase it now justifying that we are saving money in the long run - just what the marketing and sales ad want us to believe. I’m a sucker for good marketing. But sometimes what’s best for the family and finances is a ‘no’ or a ‘wait’. In the waiting, I often I find my ‘obsession’ with the ‘thing’ fizzles out and I don’t want it anymore. This is why it is important to dialogue with our spouse and listen to their opinion.
Was finances and budgeting something that your parents talked about with y’all growing up?
Jonathan's dad taught a “Financial Restoration” series at churches growing up, so he was taught how to be responsible with his money. Tithing 10% back to the Lord, 5% for a giving fund, etc… You do those first along with your financial responsibilities and savings, then any leftovers are your ‘fun money’. Debt is no good, so that’s always paid off first as well. There are more layers to it, but those are some fundamentals Jonathan taught me which helped us be in agreement to live within our means, be responsible with our money and allow the Lord to use us. For me growing up, I don’t remember talking about finances much.
Yeah, our family didn't really talk about finances all that much either although looking back, though I would have liked to. It was interesting in eighth grade physics we had a project where we selected our desired career and using that salary create a monthly budget to hypothetically live off of. We had to find housing, a car, determine groceries and what all we could afford. It was really fascinating. I had decided I had wanted to be a teacher but then realized "wow, I'm not going to be able to afford the life I thought I was going to have." If you don't talk about this stuff or look into it, you don't know.
Very true! As homeschoolers, we were both raised in one-parent-income households and though all of our needs were met, it was tight. That was part of Jonathan’s desire to be in the medical field so he could better support his family and free me to be at home to raise our family. That wasn’t possible without simplifying and choosing what we valued most.
I'd love to talk a little more about giving.
Giving is such a joy! Giving back to God is extremely important, so our tithe is setup to automatically debit our checking account every pay period. Some months may be extremely tight and I have to fight the urge to save the money for the “just in case”, but our money is the Lord’s and we’ve never had want or need when we tithe. It’s remarkable how He provides! But that’s a topic for another day.
We use the giving fund to support mission trips and ministries, help someone in need, etc. as the Lord leads us. Outside of the 5% Giving, for birthday or Christmas giving, we dialogue together to determine an amount. It's fun coming to a mutual agreement on blessing people and it’s delightful!
That's great! Kyle and I are trying to find a rhythm with our giving right now but it’s challenging. We both have generous hearts but I tend to want to give a little more but then at the same time we have to be able to pay our bills still. Like you and Jonathan, Kyle and I don't necessarily have a budget but simply try to live within our means. Though he gets paid at regular intervals, my pay tends to come in at different times which makes having a set system challenging.
We’ve been there, too. I’d say the average person has both seasons: seasons with more and tight seasons. Having a savings account for the tight seasons has been a lifesaver over the years. I enjoy when we’re able to do more like special trips or buying something for each other that we’ve been wanting without incurring debt, but some seasons aren’t that way. We try to be unified in our decisions. If we don't feel peace, we'll wait and pray about it more.
What is one of the areas that you and Jonathan find that you spend a lot of money on?
Food! We love food. Whether the experience of making, eating, sharing, or giving. I could do better with how much I spend, but Jonathan doesn’t like to limit how much I buy. Ha!
Yes! How is food so expensive? That is definitely the area that we spend the most on too especially now. We do our best to minimize spending but in a way we view eating good, wholesome food as an investment in our health. It is going to save us money in the long-term. The ways in which we do minimize costs in this area though are that we rarely eat out.
We don’t like to eat out often either. We opt to make it at home. I’d rather spend the same amount but have leftovers and make healthier options. I'm not a couponer, but I look for deals and sales which helps cut costs.
What about other household purchases?
Over the course of the last two years, I’ve been on a simplifying journey as well. Simplifying to what we really love and serves our family well. Jonathan’s been huge in that process, too, since I’m a creative hoarder. I'm finally at the place where I really enjoy everything in our house and almost everything has a home. It simplifies shopping decisions and the temptation to spend in excess. If I buy something it’s usually for a functional need. We buy quality things, but we’ll save up for it, wait till it’s on sale, or buy second-hand so it’s a fraction of the cost.