Last week, my wife and I started a 12 part seminar on personal finances. This program is for those of us who want to increase independence, become unified as a family in temporal matters, and improve personal responsibility. During the next several weeks, I plan to regurgitate what I have learned, incorporating with my thoughts. In doing so, I hope to reinforce what I have learned and be of some benefit to you.
Phase 1 – Self Reliance
Self-reliance is the ability, commitment and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family. As we become self-reliant, we also become more independent, freer from the shackles of having to trust on other people, or the government as a whole. Being self-reliant does not necessarily mean that we can do everything we set our mind to. Rather, it is that with God’s help, we can obtain all the necessities of life that we require for ourselves and our families.
I am a Civil Engineer. Since the housing market crash, there were numerous times where I found myself underemployed, or unemployed as the housing market greatly impacts what I do for a living. My wife and I made it a habit to build up a savings for such an occasion. At around 2009, the height of the recession where I was, my employer became increasingly difficult to work with. I took several days off to go around, handing out resumes to various engineering firms. Then came the point that he was intolerable to work for. I quit and set out on the road, looking for work. Soon, I found work about 1000 miles from my hometown. After moving my family (3 kids, plus one in the oven) and working for six weeks, my new employer called me into his office and told me I no longer had a job. By this time, we have depleted most of our savings. I took a part time job waiting tables, and looked for work as time and money permitted. Through diligent searching, and prayer, I eventually found work back in my hometown. But, this work would be another 3 months down the road.
Christmas time was especially memorable. We were sitting there, living off food storage and there is this knock at the door. I go to answer and nobody is there, but there is a Christmas tree, numerous gifts for the kids, and $1000 stuffed in an envelope. Never had I been a recipient of charity like that, but here it was, a way to pay rent and have something to eat other than canned green beans and bread. I never found out who gave us this gift, but I pay it forward to people as I can.
This experience taught me several things. Good people are out there. Hard times can happen fairly quickly, we need to be prepared, and yet the Lord will to help us through.
Be Wise With The Gifts We Have Been Given
In the parable of the talents, Christ teaches us to become wise stewards of the gifts we have been given. If we do not use those gifts, they will eventually be taken away. From time to time, it pays to take inventory of our skill set and maybe work on them. Twenty years ago, I was fairly good with a set of wrenches. I rebuilt car engines, could diagnose many issues, and rarely, if ever needed to hire a mechanic. As I got money and became able to afford to hire mechanics, I have lost some of those skills. Yes, cars have gotten more complex, but I find myself needing advice more often, rather than being able to lend advice.
In order to be wise with what you have been given, you need to think about the choices you make. Of course, it does not mean to sit on a decision forever. However, if there is a major purchase decision, job change, or college pursuit you are considering; it pays to do the footwork needed to make an informed decision. Talk to people who followed the path you are pursuing. Go to the Lord in prayer. Make a list of positive and negative outcomes. In doing so, you will know the best path to pursue.
Track Your Finances
In order to make wise financial decisions, you need to first know what you are doing. Through this seminar my wife and I are taking, we started tracking our finances. Some people are more technical than others, but we have a spreadsheet in which we have the regular bills, and the expenses broken into categories such as:
Income, Groceries, Fuel, Cars/Parts, Home Maintenance, Clothes, Electronics, Recreation, Health, Tithing, Blow, Power, Phone, Water, Mortgage, Other loan, Student loan, Natural Gas, Cell phone, and Savings.
We have found that filling out on a nightly basis is beneficial. Your memory is fresh, and you and your wife can discuss matters as they arise. Once we got the spreadsheet set up, to takes us 5-10 minutes. I used to do it on a monthly basis, but then it becomes a chore on a Sunday afternoon, and eventually neglected.
If you are serious about getting your finances in order, I would encourage you to start by tracking your money situation. Do this for a few weeks, and then we will talk about using this information in order to create a budget which makes sense.