Thursday, December 4, 2008

Finances and More

Financial Fun...And More

Well, for some of us those two words -- finance and fun -- don't go together, especially not if a family is suffering some sort of financial setback. So, let's look at some ways to make this subject easier, at least.

"1) Determine your family's philosophy of finances 2) Identify your priorities 3) Come up with a plan and 4) create procedures to carry out your plan." Kathy Peel: The Family Manager. To that, I'd add, "Put your plan into practice."

It is important for a husband and wife to be in agreement about how their money is to be managed. This requires talking, prayer, and getting help if the couple reaches an impasse. This also requires an attitude of love and trust and submission on both parts. Wives, especially, can help by having a trustful and submissive heart. This will build the husband up as he leads the family.

As far as the practical, day to day management goes, I think it works best for the husband to handle the larger household budget, including the preparation of taxes, and for the wife to manage a budget specifically for food, clothing, and small household necessities. This seems to make for the most harmonious arrangement, in my opinion. For one thing, it allows the wife to function in her sphere without bearing the entire stress of the larger financial picture. This eliminates any temptation on her part to worry, to nag, or to be controlling toward her husband. Likewise, it allows the husband to work on the larger picture without having to worry about the immediate household budget.

However, this is my opinion and not some law that is set in stone. In many cases, a wife may be more talented with numbers and budgets than her husband is. The man may wish to delegate all of the financial tasks of the family to her, and she may enjoy taking care of this important part of family life.

A couple may even rotate duties as their life situation evolves. For example, if a husband is carrying unusual stress at work, a wife might offer to balance the checkbook for him or pay bills or prepare the taxes that year. On the other hand, if she has several young children in the home, she may be unable to devote much time to financial matters.

Couples who farm or operate a business together will also need to talk about financial matters. Many women serve as bookkeepers for husbands who have small businesses or who are doctors and dentists.

The key is to communicate. No matter who does the actual daily work connected to the household finances, both parties should understand the financial workings of their household. Both should know what goals the family is working toward. Both should know where important documents are stored and how to access financial accounts. Both should know what insurance is carried. If, for some reason, one person should become incapacitated, the other should be able to immediately step in and keep the household finances running on track.

Obviously, a single woman must handle all of her own finances. If this seems overwhelming, perhaps she can enlist the aid of parents or of a trusted and financially savvy friend or even from a professional financial planner.

Little ways the Home Economist can save (Just as little leaks can sink your financial ship; little steps to financial health can help keep your ship afloat.)

1) Keep a change bucket. At the end of each spending period, put into it any money that you have left over in your wallet. Also, dump in change you find when doing laundry, cleaning couches, etc. I keep one for giving and one for savings. You'd be surprised how much you can accumulate.
2) Make a game of spending less than your allowed food budget. Kathy Peel suggests that if you shop in a store that has a branch of your bank, immediately deposit what you have saved through careful management and the use of coupons for things that you really would buy sans coupons. Or, take the money home and set it aside until you can deposit it.
3) Turn off the TV. This will save only a little in electricity -- more if you go all the way and drop cable or satellite. It might even cost you something in craft materials as you find more wholesome ways to spend your time. However, the saving comes from the fact that the less TV you watch, the less you are exposed to commercials intended to induce you to spend. (You might even lose weight, as you will see less food commercials that trigger your appetite as well.)
4) The Simple Dollar suggests that you sign up for every free customer rewards program that you can and create a separate email account just for the flurry of mail you will receive from these offers. Then, you can check this account only when you want to buy something. The downside to this is that you will end up with a lot of cards to carry and you will have to spend a lot of time ridding this email account of out-of-date offers. I try to sign up for only those that I feel are worth the time.
5) Shop sites like my friend Gina's -- -- for coupon offers that you can use online or in the store. My daughter and daughter-in-law were headed to target this Thanksgiving weekend. They wanted to check out the sales. Ordinarily, I would have made some last minute grocery purchases elsewhere. But, I jumped on Gina's site, printed out some valuable Target grocery coupons, gave them to my wonderful girls, and asked if they would mind picking up the stuff while they were there. This saved me both money and time, and I used the time to prepare for a family activity.
6) Learn when to grab a deal and when to let it sit. If you keep a written and mental list of items that you need or want for your household or closet, you will have a pretty good idea if an item is something you should snap up or pass by. However, you may be seized with infatuation for something that you really won't love in the long-term. When considering a purchase, ask yourself if you can wait thirty days to buy it. Thirty days is not that long in the scheme of things, and an additional bonus is that the item might go on sale during that time period. At the end of the thirty days, ask yourself, "Do I really still want this or need this?" Chances are very good that your enthusiasm for the item has cooled. If not, you might consider making the purchase if it fits into the budget.
7) Learn to mend and maintain!! In this day of disposable clothing, disposable appliances, and disposable income, it has often not been worth the time to mend something or have it repaired. I have a feeling that as the economy changes, this may no longer be true. Buy the best quality you can afford, maintain it well, and mend it well, and it will last you a long time. It's better to invest a little upfront for a quality item that will last and put the time into it to make it last than to spend three times as much constantly replacing torn or broken items. Learn how to launder well so that fabrics keep color and shape. Keep things clean. Organize things so that they don't get lost in the clutter or damaged in a pile of things.
8) Watch out for emotional spending and emotional eating. As we mentioned above, it's good to include in our budget some money for fun and for spending fun times with family and loved ones. However, if we let this part of our budget get out of control, chances are we are using spending or eating as emotional crutches. God has filled the world with wholesome, free pleasures. What's more, he has invited us to seek His Presence, which alone can truly fill us. If we make idols of things or food, it will not only hurt our relationship with the Lord, it will make it difficult to be disciplined financially.
9) Are you an empty nester with bedrooms that are now empty? Or, are you a young couple who has just brought your dream home, but haven't filled it with children, yet? Consider renting a bedroom to a young student or a young single. We rented to a young teacher for a school year, and we not only took in a little extra money, we developed a relationship with a wonderful young woman who is now married. If you do this, be sure to heed the following: Have a set time for move in and move out. Set up household rules and discuss them from the get-go. It's far easier to lay expectations out on the table from the beginning than to try to enact them alter on. Be sure the person who is coming in is of good character. This is especially important if you do have a child or two in the home.
10) We do eat meat. However, we also enjoy a meal of rice and beans or other veggie meals. If your family does eat meat, you can save by not serving meat at every meal. One caveat: Some vegetarian dishes call for expensive and exotic ingredients and can be quite pricey. If you are trying to save money and provide nutrition, as well, stick to the basics. Also, don't forget to use leftover bones to make soup stocks. Bones with a bit of meat will infuse a stock with taste and with minerals that our body needs. If you are worried about the fat, cook the stock the night before, refrigerate it, and skim the congealed fat off the top the next day. Homemade soups are nutritious and inexpensive meals.

For more reading: The Simple Dollar -- One Hundred Steps to Save Money

Questions for your Home Keeping Notebook:

How's my attitude about my role as the Home Economist going? What ups and downs have I had? What did I do in response? If I am struggling in this area, what can I do to be patient, hopeful, and to embrace what I'm learning with enthusiasm? Are my goals for myself realistic? Am I expecting to turn into the perfect Home Economist overnight, or am I willing to work slowly and steadily toward my goal? Do I extend to myself the same patience that I would to anyone else who is learning new ways of thinking and living? Remember, whoever lives is always learning. No matter how inexperienced or how experienced we are in home economics, no matter how skilled or how clumsy we are, we can always learn more. It's a process! Give yourself some room to grow and keep a good humor about any glitches along the way. (I'm preaching to myself on this one.)

For Your Book of Days

Isn't that a lovely quote? Now, God can overcome any baggage that we carry from childhood. Nothing is impossible for him. He is the only perfect Father and Jesus our only and perfect Father and brother. Christ is preparing an unimaginably blissful home for us. So, if our upbringing was less than perfect, we do not need to let that hinder us in life.

Yet, there are those children who are raised in such an atmosphere of love that they do feel that home is the happiest place to be -- next to being in God's kingdom. Children who have the confidence, joy, and innocence that comes from such a home life are beautiful to behold. So, too, are adults who carry memories of a happy home life with them forever.

What are your dreams for creating a home that is the happiest place in the world (next to being in God's kingdom) for your children? Jot down your dreams in your Book of Days. You and your children will make some mistakes along the way, and not every moment in your household will be pleasant. (see Hebrews Chapter Twelve). But, for the purposes of our Book of Days, we're not going to worry about that. After all, in God's hands, even the trials work together for good and happiness. So, let's set aside any worries about what might be or any regrets over what has already been. Let's allow ourselves to dream freely about doing what we can -- in so far as it is possible with us in the Lord -- to give our loved ones memories of a happy home. (Don't forget to dream about creating a happy home for Dear hubby, too. And, while you're at it, think about what will help you find more satisfaction in your home, as well.)

Jot down any clues you hear in your husband's or children's speech that indicate what makes for a happy home to them.

Note: I have found the story from which this quote was taken, and I plan to read it. Maybe, you'd like to read it, too. I can't guarantee what it will be like, but it looks interesting.


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