3 Stranded Finances
As Paul and I were brainstorming topics for this blog series that I knew I was going to write, he mentioned finances, and, in all honesty, I cringed a little. It takes me at least three cups of coffee to be able to understand and compute numbers, and trying to keep track of all the details involved in managing a budget makes me anxious. Like... would-rather-get-a-root-canal-than-think-about-my-budget anxious.
If we are being really honest, I often imagine a beautiful 1950s-esque world in which my husband does "work" while I sew and make casseroles and somehow all our bills are paid. We have a 30 year mortgage that we pay off on a 31st anniversary, and then we take a road trip to Florida. I buy two new dresses every year - one at Easter and one at Christmas - and every once in a while I make him a new suit. I'm absolutely sure that's the way my grandparents lived, and I would gladly trade 6 decades of progress to just never have to think about money. Ever. Again.
At least that was all true until a few months ago when I started to think about our money differently. Scripture is pretty clear that God is the Supplier of every good gift, He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and it's my job to steward well all the resources He gives me (including, but not limited to, my money). And given that Paul and I are partnering together on this adulting thing in marriage, we needed to figure out how to steward the money we made together. (Which did not involve me drinking a bottle of wine and nervously biting my nails while he did the budget.)
So, how can you and your spouse invite Jesus to be a part of your money decisions? How can your financial choices be three-stranded? Here are a few practical tips we've found helpful.
1) Remember your money does not belong to you. This was a game changer for me. Not because I have sooooo much money and I needed to remember to share a little. But because, most months, we are not rolling in surplus. So things like generosity (whether that be a charitable donation or buying a friend a cup of coffee on a bad day) or even having people in to dinner or buying a new coat rack so people have a place to hang their coats when they do come to dinner are not necessarily easy choices. Wisdom is key, and there are a number of resources (written by people much smarter than I) that can help you get a handle on your finances. But something shifted inside me when I realized that I was investing Jesus' money, not spending my own. Instead of living like a miser (which Paul can attest I try to do), I now make financial decisions based on the priorities outlined in Scripture. And I lean into my husband's guidance here, because he is much better than I am at this. Three strands - nervous Carly + braver Paul + generous Jesus.
2) Regular prayer trumps a once and done decision. As a Nervous Nelly, I love me some rules. Let's make a decision about how we are going to spend our money and never, ever, even if the sky falls, deviate from the decision we made. We will give exactly $xx.xx to the offering plate on the second Sunday of every month and check "tithing" off our good Christian to do list. And I'll never have to think about it again. Now I'm not saying don't tithe - please, please tithe to your local church. It's important. But each month as you make plans with your money, set aside some time for you and your spouse to ask Jesus what He wants you to do with it. And then, do it. I can attest to how giving money I didn't think we had to the person/cause/ministry Jesus told us to results in His blessing in ways I'm still trying to wrap my mind around. Three strands - our money + asking Jesus for direction + Jesus' provision.
3) Check out Thrivent Financial. Thrivent Financial offers life insurance and investment options like many financial institutions, but unlike many others, they are a faith-based nonprofit company (They’re actually the only nonprofit organization on the Fortune 500 - just in case you’re ever on Jeopardy). Their goal is to see people being generous with their money, and they provide a number of perks that make that easier. As a not-for-profit company, they have to reinvest their profits each year, and they do that through their members. Each member that purchases an insurance policy or invests through Thrivent is given a set amount of money yearly to complete a community project of their choosing, to donate to a charity or ministry, and to help build a home through Habitat for Humanity. And this doesn't come from your own pocket - they use the money that your money made their company to fund all of this! (We aren't spokesmen for Thrivent Financial and aren't getting any kind of compensation for posting this. We have just really appreciated working with them.) Three strands - your investment + Thrivent Financial + biblical generosity.
So those are just a few of the habits Paul and I have put into place. If you have any other ideas or strategies, drop them in the comments!