Money and Marriage

It is true that I did not marry for money.  However, there were days when I could have divorced over it.

I’m kind of not kidding.

Money was a hot topic in our household in those early years of marriage.  We had some serious knock-down, drag-outs over money.  For instance, there was the time in Year 2 when Dave told me that there wasn’t enough money for certain feminine essentials and that I’d have to figure out something else.  (Excuse me?!)  There was also that time in Year 6 when I held the tax refund check hostage, refusing to let him know that we had received it…for weeks.  (Not my brightest move.)

Here we are in Year 21, and I’m pretty embarrassed by the way we let money take center stage so many times in our relationship.  To be honest, the real problem was that we each wanted control over the same thing:  Cash.  Heaven knows there wasn’t enough of it to actually share that control!  I don’t know that there would have ever been enough money to share in those years.   There was too much self-centeredness—especially in me.

I remember the first time I felt like maybe Dave had my best interests at heart when it came to money.  It was after a couple of years of me practicing the gentle art of thinking before speaking.  Because I could not be trusted to speak the truth in love when I was even slightly annoyed, I was fairly quiet when certain topics arose that, historically speaking, were tense in nature.  As a result, Dave had a lot more opportunity to speak without getting verbally accosted.  I think he liked it.

Anyway, I remember him coming to me some years ago and asking if I would be in a good place to go over some financial things the following evening.  Even though our marriage was fairly solid at this time, I still felt a twinge of dread.  Fortunately, the whole thinking-before-speaking thing had pretty much taken root by then, so I agreed to the discussion.  I then determined to pray for this particular exchange…and committed myself to silence until I could be trusted to speak only the truth in love.

The next evening, I watched Dave spread his paperwork out on the surface of our dining room table and, with the kids playing in the background, he began sharing his assessment of our current financial situation.  Occasionally, he would look at me to be assured of my understanding of a certain issue or to ask my input on a particular point.  For the most part, though, he did the talking.  I just listened.  And, the more I listened, the more he shared.  Dave went on to share his financial goals of being debt-free and growing most of our own food.  He talked about how much he would like us to take a month-long vacation with the kids to the West Coast, camping at national parks along the way and seeing the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean.  He shared that he would like to eventually offer part of our home to missionaries on furlough and to maybe even some day visit the child we sponsor through a relief organization.  I enjoyed listening to his goals and dreams, and I realized how many of them centered on Christ and on our family.  Not one of them seemed self-centered to me.

I had been seeing Dave’s financial goals through the wrong set of lenses.  For years, I had seen Dave’s perspective on money as a personal vendetta against me enjoying life’s little pleasures.  With this new perspective, I realized that they were a protection for our family and a reflection of the priorities we claimed to share.

I’m ashamed of the time I lost due to my pride.  I wasted a lot of years trying to get the upper hand in a battle that my heart had no business waging.  I was like an exhausted child fighting against a loving parent who just announced that it was bedtime.  I did not have the maturity and wisdom to see what was truly best for me.

After that particular discussion with Dave, God gave me a picture of my husband’s role in our marriage.  I was standing in a thunderstorm with Dave standing over me.  His arms were outspread with a blanket as he tried to keep the rain off of me.  Standing over Dave in a similar stance was Jesus, keeping the rain off of both of us.  When I moved to look out and see what I was missing, Dave couldn’t keep me covered; I got pelted with rain drops and blasted by wind.  When I stayed under Dave’s leadership, I was doubly protected—by my husband and by Christ.  If Dave messed up, Jesus was still there as my ultimate refuge.  However, when I relaxed and trusted Dave in his leadership, he was able to keep me dry as an extension of God Almighty.  It was a beautiful picture, and I still carry it in my heart.

Here’s the other thing:  Dave is willing to take responsibility for our financial successes as well as our failures.  This is the ultimate protection for me!  Because of this, I am completely off the hook.  If we go broke, it is totally not my fault.  (Heeheehee!)



This article was originally written for and published in HER magazine, a product of The Courier-Times, New Castle, Indiana.


Sitting on the Sidlelines

Not too long ago, I was frustrated with our financial situation.  I was feeling kind of like a kid with a broken leg who is watching everyone else play tag at recess.  I admit it; I was feeling left out and financially forsaken.  I had been trying to streeetch thirty bucks into a hundred for approximately the fourteenth time that month, and I was just plain over it.

During a rare outing alone, I asked my husband, Dave, why everyone else seemed to have money for the fun and the frivolous while we had to pick and choose our extras according to our economical status.  I rattled off a list of the things I had been hoping to buy and do followed by a list of the repairs, breakages, broken promises and dropped balls that had led to my grave disappointment.  It was heart-wrenching, I’m sure.

While driving, Dave listened patiently (or just studied the drainage contours of the fields we were passing; I’m not sure which) and let me get it all off of my chest.  He then said something to the effect of, “Dearest wife, most people have two incomes.  If you worked full-time—even if you only made $30,000/year—that would all be ‘extra’ money because my income pays the bills.  That amount of money would buy a lot of fun and frivolous.”

First of all, I want to emphasize that my husband did not share this information as a gigantic passive-aggressive hint for me to go out and get a real job.  He just stated the facts in his calm, logical way.

Second of all, I want to acknowledge the ridiculously obvious point that I was whining about not having money to the only person in my home that has a steady, reliable, bill-paying job.  I was griping to the man who goes to work every single week day so that I can stay home to play games, read books and take walks with our children.  (Okay, so I do a little bit more than that, but those are some of my favorite parts.)  Yeah, not my most grateful moment.

Most of us struggle with feeling left out at times.  We often sit on the sidelines, longing to be part of the game, momentarily disregarding that the sacrifice required of the game costs more than we are actually prepared to pay.  Unfortunately, it is really hard to stop playing and walk off the field with everyone watching.  I mean, what if they BOO us?!

When I begin to focus on what I do not have or on what people around me think, I need a change in perspective.  If I look at how hard my husband works and how supportive he is of my role as a mom or if I consider the thousands of days I’ve been able to spend watching our children grow or if I take into account the incredible wealth of resources my family has that puts us in the top 10% of the world’s wealth, I am overwhelmed with humility and gratitude.

In spite of my infrequent moments of wondering if I’m missing out the game, I am incredibly thankful that we’ve been playing by a different rule book in our home.  It’s certainly one that requires us to be creative, to exert some self-control and to go against the flow, but there’s a measure of fulfillment and peace in our lives that I wouldn’t trade for anything.  The overall simplicity that comes with our chosen way of life yields great dividends.  We miss out on some things for sure.  Truth be told, we’re all missing out on something.  May we be mindful of making our sacrifices according to our true priorities.

This article was originally published for HER magazine in January of 2016.  

Thanksgiving Leftovers

I am always somewhat “got” when people tell me they do not like leftovers.  It just does not make sense in my “little, pointed head”, as my mother used to say.  Whether I understand it or not, though, many people feel that an encore performance of last night’s supper is beyond their level of endurance.

For me, leftovers are free food.  With $300/month to feed my family of five, I have less than $10/day to fill everybody’s bellies.  Actually, I have less than that when I consider that detergents, paper products and cleaners also come out of that amount.  So, if I put $10 toward grilled chicken on Monday, I rejoice to use any remaining chicken in quesadillas on Tuesday.  I consider it free food.  I only had to pay for it once out of our budget, and yet I have the privilege of using it for more than one meal.

Don’t get me wrong:  I can definitely get tired of eating the same thing time and time again.  However, when my ability to be a stay-at-home momma is threatened by something as mundane as wasting food, I can become very creative in re-purposing the food God has given our family.

One of the ways I deal with leftovers is by sticking them in the freezer for another time.  This is especially helpful when it comes to soups like chili, ham & beans, vegetable and gumbo, which tend to grow to the size of the pot I use.  I can only handle about three meals of the same soup before I start getting grouchy, and we all know that when Momma ain’t happy…nobody’s happy.  In my household, tucking half of a pot of soup in the freezer for another day is in everyone’s best interest.

I also use the freezer to my advantage when it comes to large quantities of meat, like ham and turkey.  My family will not balk at eating these meats in a dozen different ways over the course of a week and a half, but meat is expensive, so I freeze part of it in order to reduce the usage of a high-cost ingredient.  I honestly think my dear husband could eat half of a 10-lb. ham in a three day period.  I’m not sure that would be in his best interest,  so I wrap the meat up well in freezer bags and essentially hide it from him, putting it away for another time.

Another way I avoid “leftovers fatigue” is to make sure I prepare things in a variety of ways.  When we have a large amount of turkey leftover, I can easily serve it in 3 or 4 ways, with only one method reminiscent of our Thanksgiving feast.  Soups, quesadillas, quiches, hot & cheesy sandwiches and turkey salad are just a few of the ways I can take the humdrum out of even the largest drumsticks.

And, speaking of Thanksgiving feasts, my children greatly anticipate Turkey Day leftovers for our yearly tradition of manhattans with store-bought white bread.  My husband and I firmly believe that a turkey manhattan is only a turkey manhattan when eaten with the kind of spongey white bread we associate with our earliest remembrances of turkey manhattans.  So, once a year, we buy a loaf of the flavorless, nutrient-poor stuff to take us back to our childhoods.  I’ve thought about changing this one ingredient and going with a whole grain version, but I’m not sure it would fly with my husband.  Maybe I should put my foot down, but I am hiding ham from the man.  In our almost 20 years of marriage, we have learned to pick our battles.

The following recipe is perfect for using a variety of Thanksgiving leftovers.  With it, you can use turkey, dressing, corn and even green beans.  This is also a wonderful dish to freeze for another day.

Cha-Cha Chicken Casserole

3-4 c. cooked, shredded turkey OR chicken

3 c. leftover gravy OR 2 cans cream of chicken soup

2 c. green beans, corn or a combination

1 1/4 c. milk

3-4 c. leftover stuffing OR 1 pkg. stuffing mix

Combine all ingredients and pour into 9×13” baking dish.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and stuffing is browned.

This article was originally printed in The Courier-Times on November 29, 2105.

Taking the Tax Check Hostage

I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like to admit when I’m wrong. I also don’t really care to admit that I’m not as good at some things as I think I should be. The problem with pride, though, is that it can move us toward unreasonable behavior.

(Okay, this is embarrassing, but I’m going to share it anyway.)

At about year six in my marriage, I was fed up with my husband’s “bossing” when it came to money. I had accumulated some consumer debt, and he was frustrated with my choices–and I heard about it more than I cared to. I felt like he was constantly telling me what to buy and what not to buy. To be honest, I felt like he didn’t trust me and that he felt like he was better with money than I was.

So, I took one of our tax refund checks hostage.

Yes. I. Did.

I got the check out of the mailbox and immediately deposited it in my personal checking account and let it sit there–without Dave’s knowledge. It was WEEKS of Dave wondering why our check was taking so long (and of me not sleeping very well at night) before I confessed…while he was headed out the door on his way to work one morning.

That was a very bad day.

I share this with you to illustrate the OBVIOUS point that I was not willing to see at the time. Dave was right. He WAS (and still is, by the way) naturally better with money. (Like I said, I had accumulated some credit card debt for no real good reason on stuff that was NOT necessary.) Dave may have also had a valid point in that I could not be trusted. (Maybe.)

This was a turning point in our relationship financially. Nine months after this very dramatic (and traumatic) incident, we began our Eat Cheap! journey with $200 for groceries, diapers, detergent, paper products and cleaning supplies each month. God had forced me to take a hard look at myself and to accept that I was coming up short, and He gave Dave the ability to forgive me and to lead our family into a much more stable financial situation. For those of you who have read my book or heard my story, you know that I didn’t think Dave’s $200/month was possible. But, I was willing to try (if only to prove him wrong, haha!). That budget worked for us for THIRTEEN YEARS, allowing us to pay off everything but our home on ONE average INCOME!

Sometimes, it pays to swallow our pride.

Eat Cheap!

bookpileAmazon has greatly reduced the price on this quick and super-helpful read.  If you are wanting commonsense, practical ideas to reduce grocery spending as well as some handy recipes to help implement your new strategy, this little book can help.

Or, if you want a signed copy, you can order via PayPal under books on this blog.

Loving Money

I often hear the Bible mis-quoted or taken out of context, and the other day was no exception. We were watching a movie, and one of the characters quoted the Bible as claiming that money is the root of all evil. I have heard church folks say that off and on all of my life, and I’ve read it in books, too. The problem is that the Bible doesn’t say that. What Paul says in I Timothy 6:10 is that the LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil. That’s a pretty big difference.
So, money isn’t the problem. Our attitudes toward it are the problem. When we focus on it, worry over it, scheme for it, swell with pride because of it, we are inviting ugly things into our lives. We don’t have to have much money at all to be ruled by thoughts of it. Even though God has more than met my needs in this regard for decades, I still find myself kind of obsessing over our finances, wondering about this and wishing for that. It’s distracting and even sometimes debilitating to be so consumed by income and outgo.
Anyway, here’s the full verse:
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
God invites us to live freely and enjoy the money and resources He has given us–not stress over what we do not have or to be arrogant about what we do have.
So, I encourage you: Practice contentment. Give thanks. Be generous.
Live freely.

Sale on Savings

EatCheap! Cover

To celebrate our upcoming one-year anniversary, this handy little guy is on sale during the month of July.  If  you could use some tips, techniques, encouragement and recipes to reign in your grocery spending, feel free to take advantage of this 20% off sale if you buy directly from me via PayPal or personal check.  And, if you want to buy copies as gifts, feel free to request them to be personalized.

NOTE:  Purchases made at other online sites or brick-and-mortar establishments are not eligible for this discounted price.