Be Romantic – Have a Money Date

How about doing something really romantic with your spouse—are you ready—schedule a weekly money date! Doesn’t sound too romantic does it? But nothing will ruin those romantic feelings faster than financial challenges – and every marriage eventually runs into some sort of financial challenge.

These weekly money dates are vital because they establish the habit of regular financial conversations when there’s no crisis. Many couples don’t begin a conversation about money unless a problem has surfaced and the panic button has already been punched. Tension can reach the boiling point in a hurry when blame and defensiveness take over. That’s when it gets personal and hurtful, with a couple screaming at each other instead of working to resolve the problem.

In order to keep communications open, schedule a regular time to focus on your finances, and do three things during the money date:

  1. pray together,
  2. review your income and spending for the week, and
  3. celebrate the progress the Lord has enabled you to make.

Praying together should be the first thing you do on your money date. Jesus makes this remarkable promise in Matthew 18:19-20, “If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” When a couple prays together about their finances they invite the God of the universe to be personally involved with their earning and spending. They also learn what is important to their mate.
Establish the habit of praying together. Keep a list of your prayers so that you will be encouraged to see God’s faithfulness in answering them.

The purpose of reviewing your income and spending is to make sure that you both know where you are financially. Do not use this as an opportunity to argue or nag one another! Instead, use it as a time to discover the facts, because couples simply make better decisions when both of them are fully aware of all the financial facts.
When couples think about money or discuss it, often they are dealing with problems. It’s not fun. Someone is spending too much or not earning enough. Frequently it ends in an argument, and the whole experience feels negative. Keeping the lines of communication open when there is no real problem sets the stage for open and honest communication during those times where there are challenges.

Celebrating financial progress is important, because you are more likely to continue your progress if you celebrate along the way. The Bible is loaded with examples of celebrating God enabling success. The words celebrate and celebrated are found fifty-two times in the Bible.
This is one example: “You shall celebrate the feast . . .You shall make merry at your feast . . . For seven days you shall celebrate this pilgrim feast in honor of the LORD, your God . . . since the LORD, your God, has blessed you in all your crops and in all your undertakings, you shall do nought but make merry” (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). These farmers had worked hard planting and harvesting the crops. Now it was time to celebrate God’s faithfulness.
It’s important for couples to celebrate progress. Celebrate even if it’s something really simple – like taking a walk and getting an ice cream cone. The point is, don’t allow your budget to dictate how meaningful your celebration can be. As you progress financially, you will discover that each step of progress along the way brings more joy and meaning to your marriage. Be creative and have fun!
Married couples will always face financial challenges, but we should balance problem-solving by intentionally creating a culture of encouragement, gratitude, and celebration.

Thanks for reading,

The Beans

Back to Basics: Food

content ballEating Out vs. Eating at Home

Groceries have been a major topic for the Simple Steward because groceries tend to be a major “budget buster” for most households.  In fact, a fellow Compass colleague and I have a difference of opinion about the food category because he categorizes “groceries” under household expenses and “eating out” as an entertainment expense. I lump them together and call it “food.”  He happens to be single and doesn’t have children of his own so I’ve suggested that he take my three kiddos out for dinner sometime and see if he still considers it entertainment!

In all seriousness, though, food in general, whether we eat out or cook at home, is usually one of the larger line items in a typical budget, but thankfully, it is also one that can easily be adjusted when we need to slash spending.

It might be obvious by the number of articles I’ve written on preparing menus and grocery shopping where my opinion lies.  My preference, both for our pocketbooks as well as for our health, is to stay home.  Generally speaking, the food we make in our own kitchens will be healthier, fresher, and less expensive than any meal we eat at a restaurant.  We also have the ability to tailor our meals to suit our own tastes and special dietary needs, such as watching our sodium or catering to a food sensitivity.  Although I don’t have food allergies in my family, I know many people who do and, in my opinion, the risk of cross-contamination does not outweigh the convenience of having someone else prepare dinner.  As one friend told me, it’s just asking to be sick.

There are other risks associated with dining out, too.  We may not have an allergic reaction to the food that is prepared in a commercial kitchen, but no one in my family has gotten food poisoning from anything I’ve prepared at home.  This is because I know when I bought chicken, for instance and therefore when I need to prepare it so it doesn’t go bad.  Furthermore, sell-by-date or no sell-by-date, the nose knows!  

An added benefit to having a menu plan is being able to look back at when I prepared a certain item.  If there are leftovers in the refrigerator that didn’t get marked with a date, I can easily refer to my menu plan and know exactly when I made it.  My husband likes to take certain leftovers for his lunch so it is good for him to know when it was prepared to make sure it is still safe to eat.  I also try to incorporate a leftover night in our menu rotation to make sure good food doesn’t go to waste, an outrageous epidemic in our country.

Some may argue that they are able to eat as inexpensively at a restaurant as they would if they cooked at home along with the added benefit of saving on utilities such as electricity and water.  By watching for deals such as “Buy one, get one free” or “Kids eat free with a paying adult,” they are able to drive the cost down quite a bit. This may be true occasionally. Also, there are situations that call for someone else to prepare dinner, period.  Whether it’s an illness, a short or long-term disability, or simply a bad day, no one should beat themselves up for occasionally ordering take-out, especially when the cost difference can be marginal after taking advantage of these deals.  

However, the point of the Back-to-Basics series is to identify the areas of our budgets that most easily get away from us, and “food” is definitely one of those areas, especially when we excuse and justify the services of restaurants or even the corner convenience store.  Having a well-established menu plan and grocery budget will ensure that the trips to the restaurants or convenience stores are left to those true emergency situations that call for a back-up plan, not the “because-I-deserve-it” plan.

When it gets hard to stick to your food budget, look to scriptures on money management for inspiration: “For everything God made is good and we may eat it gladly if we are thankful for it.”~1 Timothy 4:4

If you have tips for saving on groceries and would like to share, please send them to us via the following link: Contact Us


The Seven Deadly Sins of Spending

johnFrom an early age, we are taught to recognize and to steer clear of the seven deadly sins: pride, greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth. These are known as the “capital” sins, because they can be the foundation for other sins (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1866). While committing the seven deadly sins can lead to severe punishment in the afterlife, these seven deadly sins can put you in “hell on earth” when they lead to excessive spending, mismanaging finances and debt.

Scriptures on money management tell us that greed, envy, and gluttony are probably the easiest sins to connect to spending habits. Greed rears its ugly head when we compete with the Joneses, always wanting more of the latest and greatest possessions and hoarding our money for our own selfish purposes. Envy walks hand in hand with greed, urging us to covet our neighbor’s possessions and to want the things we don’t have yet. Gluttony makes us indulge in the things we want but don’t need rather than saving for the things we do need.

But what about pride, wrath, lust and sloth? They, too, have their own financial implications.

We are guilty of financial pride when we feel that our wealth and possessions make us better than others. Since we have so much more than others, why should we manage our finances faithfully, pay off debt or plan for emergencies?

Wrath rears its ugly head when we blame others in anger for our own mistakes. If only we could make more money, we would be able to manage our finances better. We blame the lender for getting us into loans we can’t afford to pay back, and we are angry about the burden of debt that we created for ourselves.

Lust is a very deep physical desire. While often associated with sex, we can lust after material possessions, spend money we don’t have and end up driving ourselves deeper and deeper into debt to fulfill our desires.

As for financial sloth, why should we plan and organize our spending today when we can do it tomorrow? It’s much easier to ignore that massive credit card bill than it is to face the facts and conquer debt. Maybe we’ll get around to donating more money to worthwhile causes sometime in the future–but maybe we won’t.

These seven deadly financial sins are all too easy to commit based on the American consumer mindset. Each day, advertisers influence us to these excesses, leading us down a fiery path straight to our own hell on earth.

Instead, learn to be humble, modest, generous, content, peaceful, indifferent to the pull of our culture and full of energy to live life God’s way.  Find the strength to resist these deadly financial sins by learning about scriptures on money management. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never forsake you or abandon you.’”