Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spending or Saving Part 4

Welcome! This post is part of a series about “financialliteracy”, spending, and saving.  You can find the first three posts, here, here, and here.

If you’re here for the first time because you clicked on my link over at Edie’s, thanks so much for visiting. I'm thrilled you stopped by!

I’ve  had a lot to say about several of the big picture ideas and principles that in my experience (and based on the reading I’ve done…) need to guide our thoughts and eventually our practices in regards to money.

We definitely can’t leave off without talking about this biggie – budget.

For some of you, you cannot even fathom not having a budget.  You know where every nano penny goes, you have your income spent on paper before a greenback leaves your wallet, and you might even use strictly cash for your consumable purchases as a further means of connecting you to the flow of money in and money out.  A budget is your lifeline because you know exactly how much you have (or don’t). 

I’m jealous. 
I think.

I don’t really know because no matter how many times we go to budget school we end up as the class drop outs.

Now, before you go judging on us simple farmers, consider this.

Our income has been generated on a 100% commission basis for as long as I can remember.  This means some months we’re rolling in it, and some months we have just enough to cover the pre tax commitments that are withdrawn from every paycheck, and then taxes.  Yes, we've had months when we could have made a downpayment on a house with a single paycheck. Conversely, we've had months (catch that - it's plural) with zero income. 

Obviously we've had to have some sort of budget in place in order to avoid debt and the lights being shut off! It doesn't fit neatly in an excel spreadsheet.

Everyone says you need to (should) budget.  I don’t disagree.  I just think that the “how” on this is highly personalized.

The budgeting process tends to root out all kinds of stuff – triumphs and trials.  I don’t consider it an easy process.  Perhaps simple, but challenging, for sure. 

So, here’s my guideline:
Everybody needs to the best of their ability (and with increasing maturity), talk about the obvious tension between income and what gets saved and spent.

How you do this is very personal.  You’ll discover all kinds of valuable insights about yourself, your spouse if you’re married, or maybe even for some of us our parents and family of origin as some of us may be in the sandwich years of caring for our offspring and our moms and dads.

Weekend Farmer Husband and I do this with varying degrees of success.  Some of our best discoveries have been the contrasts between us and how that impacts the bottom line.

He’s impulsive and emotional.
I'm often a penny wise and a pound foolish.
I’m a tough negotiator and at least a ½ full.
He’s spontaneously generous and I’m consistently giving.
We love the same ministries and easily agree on which to support.

And, in the end, we share common goals, which even if we do not meet them, we persist in working together in gratitude and contentment toward them.

This next one’s personal.  I mean to me.  
My experience has been to be frugal, thrifty, and resourceful. 
Oh how quickly that tips over into cheap. 
When that happens I have to check myself for false worship.  I puff up and become prideful about how money smart I am.  And, as my head swells, my heart shrinks, and I quickly tumble down the rabbit hole of scarcity.
Seek to cultivate a practical but personal understanding of the difference between frugal and cheap
For me it’s pretty simple. 
Give. Save. Spend.  In that order.  
When I follow that pattern I find that I am properly aligned with the principles I posted about here and the daily implications of responsible stewardship.

If I could have one do-over in this big picture perspective,  I’d ask Weekend Farmer Husband to at least annually if not more frequently have a sit down and develop and review a family financial manifesto.  Not only would we benefit from the face to face communication regarding needs versus wants and check progress on our goals, but we’d have the opportunity to connect on what tools we need to maintain or acquire to keep on rolling.

It came to us late that we would want to identify and work towards equipping our household intentionally to further our gospel, family, church, and community work.

Let me make this a little more down to earth
The practice of intentional, authentic, heart changing hospitality has always been a shared commitment for my fine farmer and I. But, we rarely considered its impact on our food budget, the need to continually thrift for more dishes, investing in enough chairs, or sufficient drink ware, and more.

We have much greater clarity now on the true cost of hospitality, and we anticipate a full kitchen renovation this year (brown bag please, I’m hyperventilating…) as the farm kitchen that Libby offered when we bought her is quite literally rotting away.  

We don’t argue or fuss about the capital outlay to realize the remodel.  We talk about how the kitchen needs to function to serve the farm kids, the farm, and share the gospel in intentional and spontaneous hospitality.
Yes, we’ll lay down a wad of cash and we’ll labor long hours to realize this goal.  But, we’ll also seek to be wise, resourceful, and committed to building the infrastructure that supports the philosophy and practices of Liberty Farm and our family.

And now, the last of my big ideas and important principles. 
All this requires a commitment to incremental change.
None of us can do everything all the time.
We all have limited energy, opportunity, and resources to bring to any of these far reaching points.

And, if you’re already doing most if not all of these things well, I suspect you’ll want to do them better.  So, little by little, you tweak, you nudge, you adjust, and you realize incrementally you've achieved greater success.

If you’re in an swirl of too much month at the end of the money, review these ideas and prayerfully consider which needs the most attention.  Begin there.  Slowly gather strength and press on to the next, and the next, and the next.

You can do it dear one.
And before long you’ll want to take it to the next level of developing specific habits.


  1. There is so much wisodom in what you've said here. Thank you for sharing. I imagine that that must be hard to budget when you have different amounts of income coming in every month.
    My husband and I are both working towards the place where we can show more hospitality, meaning a bigger house. For now, because we live in such a small house, we do most of our dinner parties in the summer months, when we can eat in the back yard. You're right, it's an imcremental process.

    1. Dawn, what a treat to know you stopped by. Welcome!
      May I encourage you to think beyond your square feet (especially when you can't have dinner parties outside) and expand your hospitality practices in spite of how small your house is?
      Once Weekend Farmer Husband and I stopped measuring our capacity to extend hospitality by our square feet our home opened up much wider and we have been so blessed.
      Come back again, hear?

  2. I love every word of what you've shared here from your heart.
    We've always lived on a budget, but we're learning more and more how to be good stewards of the resources we have been given.

    The thing that has helped us most is to follow the method of giving first, then saving then spending. We also try to give at least 10%, save 10% and live off the has helped us so much in our 17 years.

    We're so grateful that we are very similar in the way we see money. Our parents did it in their marriages almost identically. Neither of them ever had any debt....which has been such wisdom for us in our marriage.

    I love your heart for hospitality....

    1. Tara,
      How kind of you to take time to leave a comment and make a connection. So glad you came. :-)

      There is a special nuance isn't there that pushes beyond budgeting and into faithful stewardship?

      Hospitality has blessed our home so abundantly. Once you get started it's a habit you just want to keep building. It offers so many opportunities to serve, and most importantly, live out the gospel of Jesus Christ.

      Will be thinking of you tomorrow as I read through my BiOY. It's nice to know others have joined the journey...

  3. Oh, heavens, a budget. My husband runs his business very well on one, but here? Not so much. For me, it is frustrating because he knows what is coming in, and I just see it go out, and after a while I feel like the ground is sliding out from under me.

    But somehow it works--I hyperventilate and then he realizes he's been glib and we get back on the same page. It's really a problem of my not following and his forgetting to lead...and don't most marriage issues boil down to that? At least at my house they do!

    Lovely post--and I can't wait to hear about your kitchen renovation. Just today I painted nice big swatches of VERY different colors on several walls. Change is coming!

    Thanks for visiting my blog...I'm bookmarking yours! TTFN

    1. Oh, Cheryl, what a wonderful comment and I can so relate!

      You said it perfectly:
      "he's been glib and we get back on the same page"
      If I had a dollar for every time...
      Wait, that's not what this series is really about!

      We likely won't start renovating until spring, but I think I have my colors selected for the kitchen reno.
      I love color and our home often tips toward chaos - happy chaos that is.
      So, everything is staying pretty neutral in this hardworking space with pops of fabric and dishes etc. as colorful accessories.
      It's gonna be hard. Wait - great! Yeah, that's it- once it's all done!

  4. Laura! Thanks for visiting over at Mishmash Mama! I can't wait to read more from you. Your ideas of "frugal but not cheap" really resonate with me. As do the many issues trying to budget bring up. And boy howdy do I get it about the house. Our place is small, but I love it. My only hiccup has been how to have company. But your wise words have given me something to chew on. Thanks!

    1. You're very welcome for the visit- thanks for returning the gift in kind! Our house is pretty small too, but we try to "schedule" larger or multiple families for temperate months when the great outdoors is our dining room, and smaller families or just couples when we stay inside these four walls for planned hospitality.
      Come again, yes?
      I think we have much in common and I'd love to encourage one another!

  5. Great post with so much to think on. I especially relate with realizing that hospitality needs to be intentional. We need to be prepared ahead of time before we open our homes to others and the same is true of our hearts.