Finances are often a very touchy topic. I'm going to share our financial situation with you. I'll say from the beginning, it hasn't always been easy.
I have always been a VERY frugal person. I would spend money on things, but I always made pretty wise choices and lived within my means. I got that from my parents. When I was in college and had my first "real" job, I always found ways to save. I contributed to my 401K almost immediately and I never ran up credit card bills that I couldn't pay.
When I married for the first time, managing finances became difficult. No need to go into the story there, but needless to say, money moved freely from our home and the financial situation was difficult. When we separated, things got worse for awhile before they got better. I was a single mom, on my own, raising an infant and taking care of all of the expenses that go along with that. It was very difficult and money was tight. I literally lived from paycheck to paycheck. That was something that I was not used to. If something came out of left field in terms of a financial obligation that I was not prepared for, I would often have to turn to my family for assistance. It was very difficult. That time of difficulty just further instilled in me the need to be frugal. Not stingy. Not cheap, but frugal.
I was VERY blessed when I moved to South Carolina and had a new job that gave me a great financial promotion and the cost of living was less here than it was in the north. I had room to breathe again. Room enough in fact that when I moved forward with adopting my daughter, I did not have to borrow any money to pay for the adoption. I was blessed!
At that same time, I became a Christian. I learned the principal of tithing and God and I wrestled with that for some time. I had been through such a rough time that holding onto "my" money meant a lot to me. After some great soul-searching though, I came to the conclusion that I was not trusting God with my finances. First of all - everything I had, from my clothing, to my house, to my money, to my children were HIS. EVERYTHING! I was holding on tightly to something that was not even mine. God blessed me with it and expected me to be a good steward of it, given one condition - that I hand 10% back to Him, to use to further HIS kingdom. Imagine someone blessing you with $100 and saying, I will entrust you to spend the rest of the money in an honorable way, but $10 I'm asking you to give back to me. Really? What are you going to say? NO?
I said no for awhile. I gave money to the church but it was not a tithe. It was just a portion of what should have been my tithe. I figured God understood though. I mean He saw how I suffered for many years trying to get my finances in order and how I needed now to build up my savings.... No... while God DID see all that, He didn't put a place in the bible that said "give your tithe to the church unless you are Charity and have had a really difficult time, then I understand... obey me when you get back on your feet". I have yet to find that statement in the bible.
My time of not tithing was a time of disobedience.
Enter Tim into the picture. Again, a blending of finances. Ugghhh... that part is difficult. Especially since each of us had been married previously, had established households in the past and each had children from our previous marriage. We came to the table with different views on finances. Thankfully Tim and I were both pretty frugal with money. There were issues in his previous marriage regarding finances, again, not worth going into, but finances were a point of contention. Tim and I thankfully came from pretty much the same arena in terms of living within our means and saving...then there was the tithe.
We had agreed from the beginning that we needed to tithe. It was very difficult though. We had to purchase a new home, we had private school to pay for, child care, child support - all those good things. We decided to be faithful though. We were of the same mind that God can do more with 90% 0f our income than we can do alone with 100%.
We have never been to the "Financial University" where they introduce the envelope method, but it's one that we adopted from day one. I had this process long ago. When I went from getting paid weekly to getting paid once a month I thought I would D.I.E. So, I would take my income and put it into four envelopes so it would appear as though I was getting paid weekly again. It worked well. To this day, Tim and I still use the envelope method. We have two mini-accordian files that serve as our "envelopes". Each part of the accordian file is labeled with a category - house, vehicles, haircuts, groceries, medical, eating out, entertainment... you name it, it's in there. For our monthly bills that are paid on-line, of-course there is no envelope, but those expenses are accounted for on our budget spreadsheet. We now get paid twice a month and at each pay period, Tim goes to the bank and withdraws the amount of money that is specified for each category. When the money is gone, so is our use of that specific category until the next pay period. We are not "sticklers" about it. If something comes up, we will use our debit card or do what we need to do, but for most things, especially non-necessities- like entertainment for example. When the money is gone, we are done being entertained :)
We also don't use credit cards. There are times that we set up credit cards, for example when we bought our patio furniture we used a line of credit, but it was no interest for six months. We paid it off prior to the due date. We did the same when we needed new tires for our truck. Our only criteria when doing that, is the agreement that we pay it off prior to the due date. Even our Expedition we financed at 0% interest. We were not able to do that with the car we just purchased so we pay HUGE payments and plan on paying the car off in about a year. I don't like borrowing money. Besides our mortgage, we have one credit card. We use it for things that are a necessity to have a credit card for. Purchasing our airline tickets to Ghana, reserving hotels... things like that. Always though, we pay these off with very little time accruing finance charges.
Tithing is sometimes difficult for us. I find myself slipping back into the mindset of - we need this money more than God does right now. Especially with the expenses related to the adoption piling up. It's a battle. I feel it always will be. The one thing I've promised myself though is that when we tithe, it will NOT be out of obligation or out of "guilt". God doesn't NEED our money, He wants us to give it to Him willingly and with a joyful heart... not a begrudging one.
We've slipped up every once in awhile, but for the most part, we get back on track, and what I've always found, is that God really can do more with 90% than I can do with 100%! God is faithful. We don't always have everything we WANT, but God has surely given us provision for all that we NEED!