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Monday, April 15, 2013

M is for Money

1402725_girl_dances_with_an_umbrella_african_fiIt's Sunday night. For some of you, it's Monday morning. But I have a little while until my clock calls it Monday, so let's call it Sunday. Even though this is Monday's post. Whatever. I guess the only reason the time is important is because the money thing happened for us on Sunday.

Brief history of our family finances. My husband was laid off from his job less than a month after I found out I was pregnant with our almost 9 year old. Talk about world's worst timing.  He spent the next 3 years working odd jobs, starting businesses (that failed and put us HUGELY in debt), and doing everything he could to support us. I even took a job doing taxes. Which I actually loved, but ended up quitting a few years ago to spend more time with my family. Three years of no steady income and insane financial disasters, and I'll be honest- we're still paying off some of that debt. But we're doing well now, and not a day goes by that I don't feel incredibly blessed for what we have.

Fast forward to 2012 taxes. 2012 was good to us. I made money, hubby made money, both at his job, and with his side jobs. I paid off a lot of debt, including the car. Our daughter required extensive therapy not covered by the insurance and we could afford it without eating ramen for weeks. We refinanced and got a lower interest rate on our mortgage. I became thriftier. We made more money than we've ever made. In fact, we made more money than we'd ever dreamed we could make.

At first, I was disappointed because, I mean, you make all this money, and we're not living that much better than we did before. But then I realized just how much more we do have. Back when hubby was laid off, we qualified for free preschool for our other daughter. Now, we don't, but when we had a child with learning issues and no help from any source, especially the school, I could write the check. So yeah, it's disappointing to not have all the "stuff" I thought we would at this income level, but who can put a price on what we've been able to do for our kids?

And then there's the fact that this is the first year EVER that we've owed. Because I am trained to see what the numbers mean, and how the heck could we possibly OWE, I took a look at why we owe. The answer is kind of funny. We owe because I was more frugal this year.  We owe because we saved $5000 in mortgage interest by refinancing. We owe because I used airline miles instead of paying for some of my airfare for business trips. I look at all the good things I did financially, and I realize that we owe the IRS because I did a good job.

So you know what? The IRS can have that money. Even with paying them, I still come out ahead.

Today was the day of reckoning. I had to pay all of our bills so I could figure how much money we had left so I could figure out how much to take out of savings to pay the IRS. In the meantime, I've been watching airfare for a family trip we're taking, and since it was the first time hubby and I have sat together over finances for a while, I showed him what I'd found and asked his opinion. He told me to buy the tickets. OUCH. On the same day I'm paying the IRS! But we've been saving for this, and so guess what? I booked the tickets. And THEN, because clearly I'm insane, I checked prices for flights for a trip I'm taking in July, because I noticed there was a sale. Half the flights were SOLD OUT. So I did what any crazy person would do, I bought the tickets.

This morning I was at church, and I do a weird thing with tithing. I get a number in my head of what I think is right, and then I pray about it. If hubby's with me, I show him my number, and he tells me what he thinks. Sometimes his number is higher, sometimes mine is. And sometimes, I feel a nudge about an even higher number. I always write a check for the highest number. So today, I was in church, praying about what to give, thinking of my standard number, and I had the nudge to write it for more. Our pastor gave a great sermon about temptation, and how we're always tempted with good things. He cautioned us to never accept the good things apart from God. I realized that I tend to make a lot of my decisions, even good ones, apart from God, so I reaffirmed my commitment to consult Him more. This is the point at which I started writing my check.  Most of the time, you write checks without thinking, which is what I did, until I looked down as I was signing it. It was for DOUBLE my standard amount, which is more than the amount, I thought God had led me to give.

At first, I was a little startled, because I knew that I hadn't paid this month's bills yet, and I knew I had to pay the taxes. At the time, I had no idea I was also going to pay for two trips. That would have really freaked me out. I honestly had no idea how much money I'd need to cover it all.

But as I thought about trusting God, and how we'd trusted God all through hubby's dry season, I tore out the check and dropped it into the offering.

I told this story to hubby tonight, as I was spending an INSANE amount of money, and he just laughed at how far we've come. For the amount of money I spent today between airfare, taxes, and bills, I should have a car for all my trouble. And even though I'm still appalled at the amount of money that just went through my checking account, I'm also incredibly grateful. Today was a day of plenty. I wrote all of those checks, and I know we can cover them all. The numbers worked out pretty close to perfectly. I'm so overwhelmed with gratitude for that feeling, because I remember the days when there wasn't enough money to cover any of them. When, if I had even owed the IRS $100, I would have freaked out because there was no way we'd have come up with it without sacrificing groceries or gas or some other necessity. I think about how far we've come. And I want to remember. I want to remember so that if things continue to go well for us, I don't get puffed up about it and think we've arrived. Or think that it's our due. I want to feel blessed instead of entitled. I want to feel grateful instead of bitter that we don't have more.

I have no idea what your financial situation is. If you're in a good place, I hope you take the time to be thankful for where you're at. Appreciate the blessings you have. If you are able, pass that blessing on to someone else. And if you're in a bad spot, that's okay too. I remember those days. I'm still recovering from those days. Hang on. Do the best you can. It's okay. It will be okay.


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