More with Less

We had always talked about me quitting my job to stay home after we had kids; it was what we both wanted for our family. When we were first married we both had careers and were the typical couple with a double income and no kids. Money was spent as we wanted, and we didn’t really keep track of where it went or what we purchased. Of course we had credit card debt, but not what the average American would consider “crazy.” And so, according to plan, our daughter Lily was born and I quit my job.

Unfortunately, what we didn’t quit were our spending habits; we continued to live the same lifestyle and spend the same as we had before. We ended up stressed and continually fighting.  

A Better Plan

In July of that same year, some couples at church hosted an “Un-book Club.” The topic was about eliminating stress and chaos in your family and finding a focus. Interestingly enough, the first step the group introduced was to eliminate debt and live within your means. That night we went home and I bought a used copy of Dave Ramsey’s book, “Financial Peace” and as we read through it we immediately put the basic principles into practice.

We knew we wanted to eliminate debt but we also knew that meant we had to start with living the reality of our actual income, not what we made pre-kids and with two incomes. We attempted to set a zero-based budget. It wasn't easy, and for the first three months it didn't even work on paper. On our budget spreadsheet we ended up in the red every month.

But, we didn’t give up, and we didn’t stop tithing either. We truly believed God would bless our intentions. He did.

A Hard Decision

Even though money was tight and we could hardly stay within our seemingly impossible budget, we agreed to continue to tithe regularly. We agreed that God’s money to his church would always be the first commitment we would pay out. One of the reasons why we were able to agree to sacrifice in this way is because Kevin and I believe that any money we have is not our own. It is a gift from God for us to use to further his kingdom. We believe that managing our money God’s way means that anything we have is ultimately from him and we are just to be good stewards with what he has entrusted to us. So, what we see in the bank accounts isn’t really ours, it’s ours on loan from God. The same of course could be said for our children, our home, etc. We are blessed by God to be a blessing to others.  And so, while beyond the local church we have other financial commitments that are intended to help advance God’s kingdom and Christian causes, we recognized the importance of supporting our church home just as much as we supported our own family.

The beautiful part of obedience in this place was watching God provide ways for us to meet our budget each month: bags of unneeded dog food from family members, excess produce from a friend’s garden, dog sitting money, unexpected refunds and gift cards to Target.

A Harder Road

Still, even with these gifts, tithing faithfully while living on an ironclad budget proved very difficult.  Anything that wasn't a necessity was cut: cable, the gardener, eating out, pedicures, lattes, and much more. We started meal planning and taking leftovers to work for lunch. We reduced our utilities and identified where every single dollar was spent. We knew the sacrifice of what we were experiencing would be well worth the blessings that God promises for doing things his way.

The process was slow but eventually we were able to eliminate much of our debt and continue to live within our means. Our family goal has never been to make more money so that we can do or see more; rather it has been to create more margin so that we have more opportunity to give to others and serve God’s kingdom. This past Christmas season, for the first time, possibly ever, Kevin and I sat down to talk about who we could bless financially. Even though our gifts were small, the feeling was amazing!

A Different Gift

About a year and a half ago, I prayed specifically that God would use this new found desire to manage money his way to bless Sandals Church. He answered that prayer. We are excited to be a part of a brand new ministry here at Sandals Church called Real Finance. As a team, we want to encourage the people of Sandals Church to become better stewards of God’s financial gifts and become more generous givers.

Since that answer to prayer, we’ve also  recently welcomed the arrival of our third child and God has continued to show us generosity and abundant love as his own children.

Yes, some of God’s generosity toward us has been financial, but we’ve seen that some of his best gifts aren’t tangible. We still live within, if not below, our means; not a ton has changed in our lifestyle since we started doing our finances God’s way. Yet we are most grateful for our friends and family here at Sandals Church. We are blessed to be a part of serving others through the Our Real Family projects over and over again. We are blessed to help friends who God has called out of Sandals to other cities, states, and even countries.

We are blessed to be a part of something so much bigger than us! 

While we may not ever be rich by the world’s standards, we are rich in seeing the real truth that when you are faithful with a little, God will entrust you with more, much more than money could ever buy..

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