Several months ago I took over handling affairs for my grandmother and her husband. This meant I got to make a budget complete with color-coded spreadsheet!! Fun! No, really. Fun! Making their budget seemed like a breeze because they have a fixed income. They receive the same amount every month. Now, this may be the norm for a lot of people but not for my family. Owning our own business means a variable income (which I'm not complaining about, it just has its challenges). By variable for us I don't mean a base amount with occasional lows and highs. I mean that during any given week there could be barely enough income to fill up a gas tank or enough to pay our mortgage+. We have experienced feast or famine many times (again, not complaining, just sharing some history). Now, let me explain famine in the sense that we haven't always been sure everything could get paid or that we could buy food but we have never gone hungry or without most of what we want for that matter.
Before you go thinking that I'm longing for the "greener pastures" of a steady paycheck I will tell you that I have seen my God move mountains to give us our daily bread. There is a pure beauty in being brought humbly to your knees before God Almighty because you recognize your need for Him and that you can do nothing without Him. Knowing things are out of your control is very different from saying they are but yet acting as though they aren't. I'm a bit of a control freak so I need God to remind me that I need Him.
Anyway, our budget is not what I would consider a typical budget. I don't know what's coming in. I know what is going out and that means we need our "coming in" to be equal to or greater than our "going out". We keep our bills to a minimum (this means we don't have texting as part of our cell phone plan, much to my sister's dismay!) And we avoid debt like the plague, having no current debt except our mortgage. In the last 7 years or so all our bills have been paid and we've had food to eat and vehicles to drive (which is totally a God-thing itself) but no regular means of savings. I know, I know, savings is important. And I know that we could eat rice and beans every night and live in the dark and sweat to death in the summer and never eat at Chick-fil-A but doing all of that just to save $1000 a year wouldn't be worth it to me. There has to be a balance between raemen noodles and providing fresh, healthy food for my family and also between sweating to save on the utility bill and keeping the air conditioner set on 65 (which is what I would love to do!). Some nights are grilled cheese and raemen noodles and our summer thermostat is set on 75 during the day. Balance and sanity are important!
We have 4 set bills and a utility bill that fluctuates. Everything else including groceries, gas, fun, books, etc gets squeezed out of what is left. As I'm typing this, I'm just smiling, thinking of how faithful and wonderful God has always been to me!! It makes me want to be obedient to Him. I want to please Him in my family's financial stewardship. He has blown my mind with His provision for us! He likes to surprise me! :) And never ceases to amaze me!
Recently, we payed our 4 set bills and our utility bill and groceries, etc but something rare happened. There was still money in the checkbook after I payed the mortgage. This must be a math error, I thought. Nope. This is weird! It got me to pondering...in our feast or famine income, I tend to want to hang on to anything left for the next famine. This phenomenon may never occur again but I felt like it was time to have a money discussion with my husband. We had the perfect time to do such on a weekend away. "What if this happens month after month?", I asked Bruce. "We have to come up with a plan!" (see the control freak, planner in me coming out?) We have often discussed the sadness of simply making more just to spend more. But it's an easy place to end up. I don't want to spend it just cause we're making it. We want to have purpose in what we're spending on or saving for. We are on the same page with what that looks like. We have a plan!! God may change it according to His plan but that's okay. His plans are always better! If the Lord needs to change our plans to get me closer to Him, I don't care what our income is. I'm actually scared that too much income would cause me to forget who actually provides our daily bread. It's not us. We don't deserve it. I don't care how many hours, classes, licenses, hard work or the like are to our names. It's all by His hand, not ours. We are to be good stewards of our time, talents, skills, time and money. We are here to bring Him glory and make His name known.
Purpose in what is spent. Purpose in what is saved. My heart's desire is to please my Lord in both!
P.S. - and sometimes God provides ahead of time for broken washing machines, new car batteries, and gas to drive 1600 miles. No coincidence that my Bible study this week is on Jehovah Jireh!! I love my Provider!