Over the past 8 years of marriage my husband and I have been on an interesting financial journey. We began our life together with a good income. I was working full time and the money I made was sufficient for us to live comfortably. My husband was self employed with a new business that wasn’t always bringing in money but that wasn’t really a problem. I find it interesting when I look back at that time in our lives, because we were actually making more money then than we do now. Yet, we felt very financially strapped and burdened. Our priorities were not really what they should have been at the time.
Since that first year of marriage our income has steadily decreased as the number of children has increased. At least until this past year, things seem to be moving upward again, time will tell.
I am thankful that my husband is very frugal. I am thankful for that, NOW. I haven’t always been thankful for my husband’s pinching of pennies. Yet his cut backs and pinching every ounce out of all we had has actually taught me a lot about myself and what is really important to me and to our family.
Before I got married I was single, living on more money than what we as a family live on now by about $10,000 / year.
- I drove a newer car – with monthly payments.
- I ate out regularly
- I used credit cards – not in a horrible way, I was working to pay them off and had made great progress by the time we were married, but I used my credit cards to cover things I felt were VERY important and I didn’t have cash for.
- I would buy clothes but not a lot.
I thought I was actually very financially responsible. I knew I had work to do, but I was proud that I had worked my way through 4 years of college with no debt.
After getting married, and having children a lot has changed.
- We now drive older cars – No payments. At times these cars don’t run and we have to deal with the inconvenience, but it is so nice to not have to make that $300/ month payment.
- We don’t eat out all that much.
- We NEVER use credit cards. – This has been a painful lesson for me. At times we have been in a difficult situation and I wanted to use the credit cards to get us out of the difficulty. My husband would almost ALWAYS say no. We would pray and some how the Lord always worked it out. It has been miraculous at times how things would be taken care of for us. I have learned a lot about God’s faithfulness and trusting the Lord.
- I don’t buy clothes much any more, but I have what I need. – I am learning to sew, and to be creative with the choices I do make when buying clothes.
- My husband is learning how to fix things. A LOT of things. He recently replaced the fuel pump in his van, and fixed a problem with his alternator, and fixed my washing machine. (I am glad he is handy!)
Over all I am learning to be less wasteful in what I have. We use things that we have until they are completely used up. I have been surprised how wasteful I had gotten with many things in my life. It can be easy to shop for groceries and just buy whatever fits your mood. Then you end up not using several things that are in the cabinet. I have thrown things out that I purchased like that. I am learning to mend the clothes I have so that they last longer, and even altering them some. I am learning that often if I need something there is already something in the house that is available to use.
Our washing machine has been on the fritz for the past two weeks. That is a huge problem here. One of the reasons why it is such a big problem is that we have two bed wetters in the house. So I wash linens every day. I knew I couldn’t just take those wet linens and let them sit piled up somewhere while I waited to get to a washing machine. (I have been using my neighbor’s as well as my mother’s during this process, but not every day). I didn’t want to end up with moldy, mildewed sheets. So I have been hanging them outside to air dry until they could be washed. My husband went hunting in the attic and he found a drying rack that I used 10+ years ago when I was single and in college and had a washer but no dryer. It has been helpful.
In our American world we are blessed with an abundance of things. When you read books about life for the settlers it is shocking at what they considered to be necessary items to live life. Today we “need” so much stuff that I believe is mostly unnecessary. It seems I am always finding something else that I want to buy and that we don’t have the money for. I want a fire pit in the back yard. I want new clothes. I want new flowers to plant in the front flower beds.
Are those things really necessary? Not always. Sometimes they are, but even if they aren’t maybe we can still have them if we are wise with the resources we have been given. I think a fire pit in our back yard would be a nice thing to have. I like to cook out and we don’t have a grill. A fire pit that is built properly could allow me to cook out more than we do. Should I just go out and buy all that we need? I don’t think so. I think that over time we can slowly collect the necessary materials if we are careful and keep an eye out for what we need. My husband works construction and there are times when he has extra materials that are going to be thrown away. Perhaps we will come across some old stone or bricks that we can use. We already have mortar in the garage that we can use to build that fire pit. How hard will it be to find an old grill that is rusted out and being thrown away or recycled? Maybe we can find one and use the grill grates from that to put on our fire pit for cooking.
What about the flowers for the front flower bed? Well a packet of seed isn’t that expensive. I may not be able to buy a flat of flowers to plant but I can probably find $2.00 to buy some seed and plant in that flower bed. If I am careful and save that seed I will have more flowers next year.
What about those necessary items that the money isn’t always there for. I have not painted our house in a long time. I bought the house with the full intention of painting each and every room. But I got distracted and it just didn’t happen. Well we began a month or so ago to slow repaint our entire house. We have a probably 20+ gallons of paint in our garage that we got for free. Our recycle center has a place for recycling paint. People have extra paint cans that they aren’t using, and they drop them off at the recycle center. We go each week when we are dropping off our recycles and check the colors. If the colors available match what we are looking for we grab a free can of paint. Sometimes we have gotten whole gallons of paint that haven’t been opened! FREE.
Years ago our great-great-grandparents learned how to live with so much less than what we are encumbered by. I hope I am learning how to live a life that is simpler. God did call us to be the stewards of the resources that He has given to us. Do you think God is pleased when we are wasteful with what He has provided? I am still learning this lesson. I find that I don’t always want to go to the extra work required to save something. My lazy heart is always lurking in the back ground. I pray that the Lord will keep working on me in this area so that I can be the steward he is calling me to be of His possessions.