02 January 2013

Take No Thought: A Family Financial System Built On Trust In God

Dear Lissy,

Happy New Year, Baby Girl!  Our New Year's day was very low key because Daddy and I just spent the weekend celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.  I spent an hour or so pulling all the 2012 bill stubs and tax receipts and setting up The Box for 2013.  It feels so good to have everything ready for tax season in advance.

I mentioned last week that I've avoided late bills by putting the company and amount due on the calendar.  I realized yesterday as I filed a handful of bills (that had already been paid a month ago) from the "To Be Paid" into their respective folders that I no longer need a "To Be Paid" folder.   This has been a major source of stress and worry for me in the past. I would dread going through bills trying to "make ends meet," often putting the inevitable off until bills were overdue and had to be paid. 

While Dad has been starting up his business, though, I've only been able to get "partner draws" (paychecks) for our weekly needs, and sometimes even day by day.  While just the thought of that would have sent me into a tailspin a couple of years ago, it's brought incredible freedom from worry as the Lord has worked on my heart.
By taking all control out of my hands, God brought me to a place of absolute trust regarding finances. 
 I want to keep that child-like faith as the business continues to grow, so we've changed our game plan a bit.

Here's the new system. . .

  1. Receive bill via mail or e-mail (print).
  2. Jot the company and amount onto the due date on the calendar.
  3. File the bill in it's yearly folder.  Keeping track of yearly budgeting categories is a crucial part of good stewardship and necessary for taxes for us.  
  4. Each Desk Day, use the calendar to total the amount needed for bills for the week.
  5. Estimate expenditures for personal, vehicle, and household needs and record.  Keep record in purse for easy reference on Errand Day.
  6. Request draw from business or transfer the amount needed for bills & expenses from savings to checking*.  
  7. Pay any bills due that are not auto-debited, and cross them off the calendar.  
  8. Record cash/debit purchases in a spending notebook and match to estimated amounts.  
*We have a variable income, so all income is deposited into savings, and only the amount needed for the week is transferred to checking.  In the past we deposited all income into checking, and then transferred to savings and investments.  We chose this method because:
  • Automatically saves for periodic expenses like the water bill, vehicle repairs/replacement, and life insurance.
  • Provides a buffer for "dry" weeks.  
  • Forces me to plan for the week's expenses from hair cuts to electric bills.  I do not have the ability to spend on impulse.  Very often we'll have a single draw that  has to last several weeks. When my checking account balance is flush with cash, it's hard not to think of a hundred things we "need" and spend too much.
  • Protects us from debit card theft.  We had a nasty experience a couple of years ago that left us quite shy about keeping a large balance in an account tied to our debit card number. 
  • Once the balance in the savings account reaches a pre-determined limit, the extra is invested into CD's or other long term savings (car replacement, college, retirement, etc).  We haven't reached that point yet, but I'm hoping to hit that milestone this year.
Three years ago, I couldn't have done this.  It "feels" like too much work!  In reality, when I had to do it for a couple of years, I realized that this level of discipline brings extraordinary freedom.  I can confidently go to my Heavenly Father for every need, and even wants, knowing that I've faithfully stewarded every cent He's given me.  When I tell Daddy I need $ for a week, I don't fear his reaction because I know that's how much I really need and that I can faithfully account for every cent he's given me so far.  (Daddy's reactions, as you well know, never, ever include anger.  He's the most patient man I know by a long shot.  I did, however, fear disappointing him.)

This system was not born from my Extreme Awesomeness -- quite the contrary.  It was a measure of desperation brought on by circumstances after I prayed for victory in this area.  Once again, it is all of Him.

Daddy used to preach all the time about how God answers our prayers in unusual ways.  Praying for patience?  Batten down the hatches for trials galore.  Praying for victory in the area of financial stewardship and worry?  God may choose to teach you that by bringing you to the point where you don't know day by day where your next dollar is coming from.  He knows that godliness with contentment is far more important -- and lasting -- than a thriving business or good job.  We still have some kinks to iron out of our financial system.  It's hard, hard, hard to live on a variable income.  Thankfully I have some godly friends who have traveled this road before me in this area that I can look to for advice and encouragement.  I've written you letters before about the importance of using a cash system for variable expenses, and with the lessons I've learned during the 18 months since that letter, I can confidently say: if you faithfully steward your finances as a tool from God, they will not replace God in your heart.  

You are of great worth, Dear Heart,

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