Category: Money

Answered Prayer

jer 29 13

Have you ever found that answered prayers can be so awkward sometimes? I have. This week.

There’s the awkward sense of surprise that hey, this actually works. God’s up there listening! which is silly because isn’t that the whole point? If it doesn’t change anything, prayer is a pretty lame pastime.

There’s the awkward sense of humility that God took note of what I asked while around the world bombs fell and sirens blared and families cracked and addicts relapsed. I’m sure mine was not the only prayer God answered, but still. I have been heard and I am humbled.

There’s the awkward sense of bewilderment that this is the prayer you chose to just do? Believe me, if I had to prioritize all the requests I make to God, this would not have been number 1. It is in the top 10 for sure, but I am carrying heavier grief and bigger dreams than the hope tied to this prayer my God has answered.

But.

In the surprise and humility and bewilderment, I am so encouraged to keep praying. Because I know God hears all the prayers, and this simple answer gives me confidence that he is working out complex answers too, weaving deep solutions and healing and hope into all the circumstances that I bring before him.

So let me tell you my prayer and its answer.

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Spending Time and Money

When it comes to money, I’m a saver not a spender. I love to save money so much that I will hide the odd $5 or even stash a $20 somewhere out of sight just so that one day I can discover it and feel like it’s free money. I love to accumulate money through automatic transfers to savings accounts, through birthday and Christmas money hoarded in an envelope at the back of my sock drawer, through an empty coffee can that collects our spare change. I love to save up for a big splurge and then cheap out and only spend half what I planned. Actually, I don’t love that, but I do it all the time because I so much prefer to have money saved up than to spend it.

Money In Pocket 3

Some of you might wish you had my problem, and I will admit that I have indulged my pride a time or two, justifying my control binges of locking down spending as discipline. I mentioned that Matt and I are working through a marriage prep course with a couple from our church, and it has been really helpful to go back over the basics of building a healthy relationship together! One of the videos examines the lead couple’s differences in how they handle money – one a saver and one a spender – and how they needed to learn from each other. It is so easy to classify savers as “good with money” because they don’t waste money on frivolous purchases. However, as a saver, I am all too aware of the times I have wasted opportunities to spend my money well because I couldn’t bring myself to let it go.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a recent example –

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No-Card November Update

We are more than half way through the month now, so I thought I’d check in with how our month-long break from plastic is going.

Overall, I’d say the goals of our plastic fast are being met. However, we have adapted the rules because living on cash only is complicated and requires organizational time and skills that we apparently don’t have. So instead of never using any of our cards, the limits we’ve been living with are:

  • using the credit card we share only for groceries and gas.
  • I pay for my chiropractor visits on my debit card because my insurance pays directly into our bank account, so the money goes in and out of the same place.
  • we still use cash for personal spending, miscellaneous things we need for the house, and for treats like the pizza we had for dinner last night 🙂

I am waiting for the last automatic bill payments of the month to go through before I update our budget so we know where we stand for the home stretch of this month. So far things look good though, and I’m happy!

No-Card November

Matt and I are undertaking a challenge this month to quit using our credit and debit cards cold turkey.

A lot of financial advice people suggest using only cash, and when we first started budgeting we tried doing cash only in separate envelopes or jars for different categories. It was too complicated to keep track of though, and too easy to end up stuck somewhere without the cash we needed. As we’ve tweaked our approach to budgeting over the last few years, I think we’ve found a pretty good middle ground in using plastic for convenience but not to overspend.

So why mess with the system that works for us? The thing is, over the last few months we have noticed that the “convenience” of our cards is making it just a little too easy to spend outside of our planning, and it’s harder to keep track of what’s what (should buying lunch come from the grocery budget or allowance?). It just adds up, and we gulp at the bill and pay it off (because we’re still spending less than we make!), but it means our student debt continues to hang over us, and honestly there are other things we’d like to do with the money anyways. Hopefully a month without plastic will help us refocus on our financial goals and recognize areas where we are succeeding or could do better.

How will this month of living on cash not end up a giant failure like past times? Well, there are no guarantees, but a couple factors are different that give me hope.

  • First and foremost, it’s just a month and the point is not to make a permanent change. We don’t want to cancel all our cards, but we want to break the habits that cost us money. By using only cash, we’ll know when the money runs out, and then we’ll stop spending it instead of justifying “oh it’s only a coffee” or “this wasn’t in the plan, but we’re under budget for groceries so far, so everything should balance out.”
  • We are going to keep things simpler than back in the day. Instead of categorizing everything and micromanaging each area of life, I think we’ll stick to gas, groceries, and other (life).
  • We are in a much better rhythm financially than in those early cash-only days. Because we spend so much money at the beginning of the month on rent and loan payments, we used to rely on our credit cards for the first half of the month and then everything balanced out (more or less) when we got our second pay cheques. This month Matt’s loan payments are finally on hold (he’s been back in school since January!!), and that cash should be plenty to meet our needs for the first half of the month. While Matt’s payments are on hold we are planning to body slam my student loan, but we can apply the extra payment in the second half of the month so we aren’t so strapped for cash from the 1st to 15th.

A really big motivating factor is that I only have three more months of work before taking maternity leave (!!!) and we want to make sure our financial ducks are in a row before then. Maybe this month will suck, but worst case scenario we’ll meet our goals for debt and savings, we’ll eat some beans and rice at the end of the month, and we’ll learn whatever we can from why it sucks. Or maybe it won’t be so bad 🙂