What’s in Your Wallet?

In November 2018, my husband and I moved from Oshawa to the small city of Owen Sound. Oshawa is the only place my husband has lived since moving to Canada in his early twenties. I, on the other hand, grew up in a small town and have moved around Southern Ontario since then.

One of the reasons we made this move was to be debt free, with the exception of our mortgage. Not to say we are rolling in money now but there is certainly less stress around our finances. Before we moved, we had 2 car loans, 2 credit cards and overdue past taxes.

Some of the most challenging times in my life financially was when I was in my late twenties. I was a single mom at the age of 26, working full-time in retail. Neither my ex-husband nor I were any good at managing money.

When my marriage ended, I was lucky enough to have my parents help me with a down payment on a small, inexpensive house in Paris (Ontario, not France). By inexpensive, I mean it was $52,000 and that was in 2002. It was not the most fabulous house but I made it home for my daughter and me and it was cheaper than paying rent.

This is my old house in Paris. Except when I bought it there was ugly grey stucco on the exterior. which was falling apart. The bedrooms upstairs had 6ft ceilings and so did the bathroom and kitchen at the back of the house.

Over the next few years, I really struggled. I did not have a landline or cell phone for about a year. I’ve had the gas shut off to my house and had the hydro turned off. No matter what though, I always paid my mortgage before my other bills. I always figured that as long as I had a roof over my head I could figure out the rest.

I was the recipient one year of a friend’s church’s Christmas Adopt-a-Family program. Friends bought me groceries. I was extremely grateful to the angels in my life who were there to support me through those difficult times, whether financially, with gifts or emotional support.

To say the least, I know how it feels to want and to have plenty. Anyone who has been in that position knows it is better to have plenty. At the same time, I now appreciate everything I have even more because I went through a (long) season of want. When in the season of want, as much as you dream of all the things you could have if only… you are very grateful for what you do have. Even if I only had KD, bread and PB&J in the cupboard, we had food to eat.

Admittedly, there were times that when I did receive a fair amount of money (like when I did my taxes) I would splurge a little on my daughter and myself. I would specify a limited amount (say $100) that she could get something she really wanted. Or I would spend extra on clothes for the two of us. I did this in addition to paying the bills but that treat came first.

Was it irresponsible of me? To some extent, yes, I admit it was. I did not spend my money wisely which is why I had so much debt for so long.

This is the sunroom of our new house. It is a great place to enjoy the view of our backyard when it is raining, buggy or cold. There is also a fireplace in the room. All the work done in the backyard was paid in cash.

Now, as I am debt free, my husband and I still need to stick to a budget so we can save enough for our dreams, emergencies and retirement. We also give ourselves some play money. Each week we give ourselves an allowance of $20 to spend however we want. I tend to spend mine on food. I will not share what Nick spends his on but often he will save it up for a few weeks. There is no judgement on either side as to how we spend our blow money. We call it blow money because we can blow it on whatever we want.

So how did we do it? There wasn’t just one thing. For years, I had followed Gail Vaz-Oxlade – the Canadian financial guru (who hasn’t watched at least one episode of ‘Til Debt to Us Part’, ‘Money Morons’ or ‘Princess’?); we followed Dave Ramsey – the American Christian financial guru; and we worked with our financial advisor Charmaine Huber from Money Coaches Canada (a fee-based financial planning company).

These days I am doing better with how I spend my money. Do I stick to the budget every month? Unfortunately not, just don’t tell Charmaine. But we are improving and that is the most important thing. And we keep trying.

Did you know there are over 250 verses in the Bible that reference money? I know that from hearing the Copland Financial Ministries commercials on the radio all the time. I certainly am not going to reference all of them, but there are a couple I would like to highlight.

Paul talks about knowing want and knowing plenty in Philippians 4:10-13. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

I imagine he knew what it meant to have plenty when he was a staunch Jew who hunted followers of Christ. He had a very comfortable life then. He also knew what it meant to want from his time spent in a Roman prison and had nothing. And he had known various states between the two. It is important to be content no matter your circumstances.

There are many verses in Proverbs, the good book of one-liners, that talk about managing money.

Proverbs 11:28 – 28 Those who trust in their riches will fall,
    but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Proverbs 17:16 – 16 Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom,
    when they are not able to understand it?

Proverbs 22:7 – The rich rule over the poor,
    and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Proverbs 23:4 – Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
    do not trust your own cleverness.

Jesus talks about money as well, on many occasions. First of all, one of his disciples is a tax collector, one of the most despised occupations (not much has changed since that time). He also tells the people that they should sell everything they own to follow Him. You will find this story at Luke 18:18-30.

One thing my husband and I cannot agree on when it comes to our budget is giving. Yes, the Old Testament tells us to give 10% of our earnings to the Lord. There are some people (read “The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church” by Andrew Farley) who think the 10% rule went out the window with Messianic Law.

In II Corinthians 9:6-15, Paul tells the church that whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly but whoever sows generously will reap generously. Basically, he is saying the more you give, the more you get in return. We are just expected to be a cheerful giver.

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
    their righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

When it comes to giving, whether it is 10% or more, or less than 10%, Jesus does tell us to be humble, almost secretive about your giving. (Matthew 6:1-4) Do not go shouting it on the street corners all the things you have done for others or the Kingdom of God. It is only important for God to know what you have done. He is the only one who has the right to judge us for our actions and for our giving.

21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)

No matter how big or small your budget is, spend wisely. If you need help getting your finances in order, then ask for help – whether it be a trusted friend, an advisor at your bank or an independent advisor. Lastly, give. If it is 10% or more, that is awesome. If it is less than 10%, that is okay too. Give what you can. As well, if you can’t always give financially, then donate your time. Sometimes that is even more valuable to the Kingdom of God.

Authors Note: For the record, I do not receive any fees, commissions, gifts, etc. for the promotion of the above authors, services or products mentioned in this post.

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