Floods, Faith and Finances: A look at Proverbs

I’ve been following Dave Ramsey for a few years now and when my husband and I got married we were both committed to living a debt-free lifestyle. We were both working outside the home then, so each month we budgeted our income, and were able to very quickly pay off his vehicle, and then began to do the same with my student loan. Then, just 6 months into our marriage we found ourselves expecting, so we pushed pause on our debt-snowball (as Dave calls it, and as he recommends) and just started saving as much as we could, while still making the minimum payments on the loan. Once Cookie girl and I came home safe and sound, and the hospital bills were paid, the rest of money that we’d saved went to paying off the student loan. And then I was free to leave my job and stay home with the baby. I was nervous and excited about leaving my job to be a stay-at-home-mom.

After a few months we decided we were ready to purchase a home. Now, Dave Ramsey recommends that you save up a 3-6 month emergency fund and your 20% down payment before purchasing. Let’s just say, we were impatient, lol. We saved a couple thousand and were ready to move. We did not follow Dave’s recommendation, but we still tried to be wise in our financial decisions. We always kept a small emergency fund, refused to use credit (except the mortgage, obviously), and made sure our monthly mortgage payment wouldn’t exceed 35% of our take-home pay.

After a few months of being in our new home we’re finally back on track as far as budgeting and savings go. We’ve been putting a percentage of each paycheck in our emergency fund to build it up, and allocating money for our tithe, mortgage, utilities, groceries, etc. This means we’ve been taking some time to get our home in order, since we’re purchasing everything with cash, little by little.

The Flood…Well, a few weeks ago I called a plumber about a leak we noticed in our 2nd bathroom; the drywall was stained from moisture. He told us that it looked like the caulking needed to be repaired on the bathtub and the water was pooling in that spot. So, Saturday my husband and I went to the hardware store for items to make the repair. As he began tearing away old drywall, he noticed it was very wet. We decided we would call another plumber for a second opinion, but wanted to spray the area with a little mold and mildew remover since the area was now open. Suddenly, he heard a drip and then a pipe started spraying water everywhere! He raced downstairs to turn off the water and we called our insurance and the plumber.

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The culprit behind the leak, turned sprayer.

By Sunday afternoon, the pipe was repaired, the flooring and drywall removed, and dehumidifiers were in place. But Sunday morning, as I headed to church I was thanking God. For one, W was originally supposed leave on a work trip this weekend, and if that pipe had decided to spray when it was just me at home I wouldn’t have known how to shut the water off, or who to call for help. Second, we were home when it happened and were able to shut the water off before too much damage occurred. And third, we were able to pay for the repair using money set aside for our emergency fund.

Every day I pray over our home, that God protect it, and us; and that God give us wisdom over our household, marriage, child(ren), ministries, and finances; and I thank Him for His many blessings. Interestingly enough, I was thanking God for being our provider and helping us build our emergency fund, just a few days ago, and I noted that our emergency fund is not where we place our faith. Our faith is in God and His provision, because He gives us everything we need. And it’s our responsibility to be a good steward of these things. To plan and manage our finances according to biblical principles is to walk in obedience.

But what does that look like? The book of Proverbs is a great place to start. I want to share more on this book in the future, but here are a few financial principles you can find straight from the Word of God.

Tithe.

Proverbs 3:9 (AMP) says to “honor the Lord with your capital and sufficiency and with the first fruits of all your income.”

God doesn’t need our money, it belongs to Him from the get-go. The Word says the earth is the Lord’s and everything within it (Psalm 24:1)! To give Him the first fruits is to show that we recognize that it’s God who provides, that we are thankful for His provision, and that we honor and respect Him. At least a tenth of our income should be given to establish His kingdom and do His work.

Know the value of money.

Like I stated previously, money shouldn’t be where we place our faith. It can’t save us from the grave, and it certainly can’t save our souls; it’s simply something we use. Proverbs 3:13-16 states that godly Wisdom is much more valuable than riches, and it should be what we strive for more than anything else.

While there’s nothing wrong with wealth, in itself, putting it above God is wrong. Proverbs also states that “wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (11:4, NIV); “those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf” (11:28, NIV); and the rich man is deluded if he believes his wealth will protect him (18:11, my paraphrase based on the AMP, lol).

Work diligently.

While money and/or wealth should never supersede our obedience or love for Christ, we do need an income to provide for ourselves, our family, and in order to give. That’s why Proverbs has so much to say on this point:

  • Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth (10:4, NIV).
  • Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense (12:11, NIV).
  • Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor (12:24, NIV).
  • The lazy do not roast any game, but the diligent feed on the riches of the hunt (12:27, NIV).
  • All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty (14:23, NIV).
  • Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank (22:29, NIV).
  • Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house (24:27).

The list goes on! Proverbs 6:6-11,16:26, 19:15, 21:25, 27:23-27, and 28:19 all mention work, and/or laziness, as well.

Don’t be in haste to make a quick buck.

Building wealth, an emergency or retirement fund, or paying off your home doesn’t normally happen overnight. But if it did/does, God has something to say about that, too. Proverbs states that “dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow” (13:11, NIV); “an inheritance claimed too soon will not be blessed at the end” (20:21, NIV); and “a faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished (28:20, NIV).

Be a person of integrity.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but being a person of integrity will go a long way in every area of life, including your finances. Proverbs has much to say regarding this as well:

  • The Lord detests dishonest scales, but accurate weights find favor with him (11:1, NIV).
  • A wicked person earns deceptive wages, but the one who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward (11:18, NIV).
  • Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil (15:16, NIV).
  • Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice (16:8, NIV).
  • The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice (17:23, NIV).
  • Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a [rich] man who is twisted in his speech and is a [shortsighted] fool (19:1, AMP).

Again, the list continues with Proverbs 3:33, 16:20, 20:10, 20:23, 21:6, 22:1, 22:22, 28:6, 28:8, and 29:24.

Be content with what God provides.

Being content with what God provides doesn’t mean you can’t work harder to bring in more income, what it does mean, is that we don’t covet the things others have, or live in longing, and let our want consume us. Proverbs states that “the wicked desire the plunder of evil men, but the root of the righteous yields richer fruit” (12:12, AMP); “the craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. All day long he craves for more, but the righteous give without sparing” (21:25-26, NIV); “he who has an evil and envious eye hurries to be rich and does not know that poverty will come upon him” (28:22, AMP); and “the greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper” (28:5, NIV).

Be generous.

As Proverbs 21:26 states, “the righteous give without sparing.” The Word says that when we give it will be returned unto us (Luke 6:38). However, this isn’t to say that when we give of our finances, we’ll receive more money in return; but a few things I’ve learned about giving are: 1) We honor God in our finances (and lives) when we give, 2) When we give, the remainder of our income is always enough to meet our needs, and 3) Our hearts are changed, and we become less concerned with our needs, than the needs of others. Proverbs says that “one person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty” (11:24, NIV); “whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” (14:31, NIV); “whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done” (19:17, NIV); and “whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered” (21:13, NIV). Other verses concerning this, are Proverbs 22:9, 22:16, 22:22, and 28:27.

Don’t co-sign on someone else’s debt.

Now, being generous does not mean that we loan out money, or co-sign on another’s loan. Being generous means we simply give, no strings attached, and no expectations of being repaid. Proverbs states, more than once, that we should not co-sign on another’s loan. I love how the amplified Bible puts it:

My son, if you have become surety (guaranteed a debt or obligation) for your neighbor, If you have given your pledge for [the debt of] a stranger or another [outside your family], If you have been snared with the words of your lips, If you have been trapped by the speech of your mouth, Do this now, my son, and release yourself [from the obligation]; Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, Go humble yourself, and plead with your neighbor [to pay his debt and release you]. Give no [unnecessary] sleep to your eyes, Nor slumber to your eyelids; Tear yourself away like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.~ Proverbs 6:1-5

The author writes like it’s a life or death situation!

Proverbs also states that whoever co-signs a loan will suffer (11:15), that only a fool (or one who lacks sense) co-signs for another (17:18), and that the creditor will be quick to take the belongings of the co-signer when the primary cannot repay the debt (20:16, 22:26-27, 27:13).

Don’t be a borrower.

There’s a saying I once heard: “Neither a lender or borrower be.” I can’t remember where I heard it exactly, but it came to mind while I was writing my notes for this post. Proverbs 22:7 (NIV) states that “the rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” A slave…

Being in debt, whether to a bank, credit card company, friend or family member, etc. is like being enslaved. It’s not something we think about in that manner, very often, is it? But every month we must pay someone else our hard-earned money (plus interest!), or risk repossession, foreclosure, calls from debt collectors, being sued, or liens on your bank accounts or estate (after your passing). Without that debt hanging over your head, your income would be yours to do with as you please (or as God deems fit).

Spend wisely.

Lastly, spend wisely. Proverbs says “the plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty” (21:5, NIV); “whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich” (21:17, NIV); “there is precious treasure and oil in the house of the wise [who prepare for the future], But a short-sighted and foolish man swallows it up and wastes it” (21:20, AMP); and “do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (23:20-21, NIV).

If we waste all our money on things we don’t need, or that deliver temporary satisfaction, we won’t be able to take care of our every day needs. This doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun, it just means that we have to set limits and budget. In the last chapter of Proverbs we read about the virtuous woman (often described as the Proverbs 31 woman); in verse 16 we read about how she considers buying a field–she thinks about it before doing so–and in verse 25 we read that she’s unafraid of the future because she and her family are ready. Are you ready?

I know this was a long post, but the book of Proverbs just has so much to say about our finances and I didn’t want to leave anything out. As I’ve mentioned before, there will be more posts on Proverbs in the future. I’ve been reading it over and over again for the last few weeks, and have been jotting down notes regarding different areas of our lives that it pertains to. I’d recommend reading it if you haven’t already, or re-reading it if you have, and check back with me in the upcoming weeks. Take care and God bless!

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Dumping Debt: Part 3

Three years ago my mom gave me Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) kit for my birthday. While I was a little skeptical, at first, I read the book and listened to the CDs on my way to and from work…and I allowed Mr. Ramsey to change my perspective on how I handled money.

So, when my boyfriend (now hubby) and I were getting serious, we watched the DVDs together. I could tell he was a little skeptical, as well. However, he gave it a try. He saved up and purchased my engagement ring with cash, and when we got married, we did so, debt-free (you can read about that here); even our honeymoon was paid in cash! During our first 7 months of marriage we worked hard at paying down our debt, which included his car and my student loan.

In November, we discovered we were pregnant! Being just one payment shy of having the hubby’s car paid off, we went ahead and made the final payment, and then pushed pause on our debt-snowball; only making a minimum payment on my student loan each month. Then, we saved during the pregnancy. We did purchase a used car, with cash, when my car went out of commission earlier this year, but then we continued to save. After this mommy and baby came home from the hospital, we used the money we’d saved to pay off the hospital bills, and put a huge chunk down on my student loan.

And on October 31st, 2017, we made our LAST student loan payment, making us DEBT FREE at last!!

Now, we’re on to Step 3, and then on to what Dave calls Step 3B, which is a down payment for a house. And guess what! YOU can do it too! It takes hard work and self-discipline, yes, but it’s possible!

Have I mentioned that after baby girl came, I left my job!? I’m now a stay-at-home mom, because we made good financial decisions based on Dave Ramsey’s principles!

Do you have any dreams or goals that you continually push aside, because your finances prevent you from chasing them? Perhaps you should check out Dave Ramsey’s FPU. You won’t regret it.

7 Baby Steps

  • Step 1: Save $1000 Emergency Fund
  • Step 2: Debt Snowball
  • Step 3: Save 3-6 months of Expenses << This is where we are now!
  • Step 4: Invest 15% of Household Income
  • Step 5: College Funding for Children
  • Step 6: Pay off House Early
  • Step 7: Build Wealth & Give!

Spending Less this Summer: 2016

My husband and I are currently working on paying off our combined debt; however, while we are on a budget, we also enjoy our weekend activities. Therefore, we’re always on the lookout for ways to spend time together outside our home, without spending a ton of money.

Since we only got married in May, the past 2 months we’ve just been learning how to live together, so we spend a lot of time grocery shopping together, cooking, or taking care of other household chores. Before we got married we used to eat out a lot, but we have tried to cut back on those expenses, now we try to meal prep and cook more at home. (It’s like playing tetris when we try to put our prepped items in the freezer, lol.)

Speaking of cooking…about a month into our wedding someone at work asked me if I was pregnant, lol. (That’s what happens when you have a husband that enjoys cooking and likes to feed you!) So, that same day I messaged my hubby to let him know I was ready to start working out. He’d been trying (unsuccessfully) to get me to go running with him, previously, so he was happy about my decision to join him. One way we save in this area, is by using the gym in our apartment complex instead of paying for a gym membership. We’re already paying for the amenity with our rent, so we might as well use it. It’s pretty basic–some treadmills, a stationary bike, ellipticals, free-weights, and a few machines. Yet, while it may not have all the fancy equipment found at a bigger gym, Pinterest, as we all know, is full of home workouts that we can ad to our routines. We’ve also walked/run along a 3-mile path that goes around our local city and along the river.

Earlier this summer, we also attended a free, local event along the river called “Rock the River FBXB.” There were local vendors, foods trucks, musicians, a beer garden, boat races, hikes, bike rides, foot races, and plenty of children’s activities. We spent most of our time chatting with friends, but the weather was great, dogs abounded, and the music was loud. We had fun! In our area, there are numerous free or low-cost summer concerts: First Friday concerts in downtown Market Square, Stafford Songfest Sundays at John Lee Pratt Memorial Park, and Celebrate Virginia Afterhours are just a few. We’ve been meaning to check out the concerts at Pratt Memorial Park and take along a picnic basket with us, but we haven’t had the opportunity, yet. Be sure to check your local area for similar events.

Independence Day weekend we went camping with my family in Shenandoah National Park. While we did have to pick up some new camping gear–a tent & sleeping bag, for two–the campsites were decently priced! If you already have the gear, or can find a really good deal on equipment, tenting is always an option for a weekend getaway.IMG_3650

Lastly, one of the activities we’ve been attempting to participate in each month (since January 2016, actually) is what we call our First Friday Karoake Night. Every Friday night, beginning around 9:30-10, our local Applebees hosts a karaoke night. They also have half-priced appitizers afer 9, so that doesn’t hurt, either. 😉 We usually text all our friends to join us on the first Friday of each month, but whether it’s just the two of us, or a crowd, we usually enjoy ourselves. Check to see if any of your local restaurants host karaoke nights, if this is something your interested in.

Well, that’s it for this year’s low-budget summer activity list! Let me know below how you’ve been filling up your summer, or what upcoming plans you already have.

Birthday Confessions

Carrot Cake B-day Cake

Mmm…Carrot Cake, my fave!

I don’t know about you, but it seems that about twice a year—around my birthday and the new year—I find myself taking inventory of where I am in life and where I would like to be. With my birthday just a day away, I’ve been thinking a lot about career decisions, where I want to be in five years, what my goals are, and what it’s going to take to get there. For those who’ve been following my blog so far, you know that I’m currently on the Dave Ramsey plan and have been trying to pay my student loan off as quickly as possible. I’ve actually started looking into getting a second job to work in the evenings and on the weekends, in addition to my full-time job, just so I can have some extra money to get my loan paid off quicker.

However, these last few days, I’ve been reminded that I shouldn’t become so preoccupied with paying off this student loan that my relationships with God or other people suffer. As much as I want a second job, I also want to continue serving in my church, whether on the worship team; working with the children’s, homeless, or young adult ministries; or teaching a Wednesday night Bible study (like I planned to do in the fall); I want to serve. Not to mention the fact that I currently have the freedom to meet a friend after work to study the Word on Monday evenings, attend a ladies Bible study at my friend Cori’s house on Friday nights, and spend some quality time with my boyfriend on the weekends. 😉

Now, will I continue to look for other ways to increase my income? Absolutely! But I still want to be able to serve, minister, and foster the relationships that God has placed in my life, as well. This just means that I have to trust that God will open a door and make this a reality. Trust and patience have always been difficult for control freak me. I want to devise my own plans and create my own way, but God says it’s His job to direct my steps (Proverbs 16:9).

Whatever you’re doing, wherever you’re going or planning, or even if you’re like me–working on your debt snowball–don’t forget that all this is for His glory and we’re to honor Him in all that we do. Nothing is more important than Him and the calling He’s placed on each of our lives to point the world towards Him. Don’t let any other goals, people, or objects distract you from Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NLT)

Dumping Debt: Part 2

It’s been a while, since I’ve posted anything, much less regarding how my debt-free journey is going. I’d been slowly chipping away at my credit card and student loan debt, but what really made a huge dent thus far is that I received a refund earlier in the year (primarily because I’ve been paying interest towards my student loans) and my mom graciously surprised me with some money she’d been saving for me.

These two unexpected gifts allowed me to completely pay off my credit card (woohoo!) and the smallest of my 3 student loans. Most of the second to smallest student loan has also been paid off (it should be gone by the end of this month), leaving just the largest of the 3 loans. This means that I’ve paid off $3270.20 in credit card debt and $4011.72 in student loan debt within the last year!

That’s a lot of money! I could only imagine what I could have done with this $7281.92 if I didn’t have these debts.

Goals

For me, this journey to becoming debt free is important because I want to be in a place where I can give freely and generously. There has been many a time when I’ve wanted to help someone or bless a cause, financially, and have been unable to do so because of debt. One day, I want to be able to offer services to aid and bless those around me. With this goal in mind, it’s easier for me to give up the things I want now, so that I can be in a better position to serve later.

What goals do you have for your future? Can being debt-free help you reach those goals?

Whatever you do, be sure to create a plan! Like Zig Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Be intentional with your finances and your time.

7 Baby Steps

  • Step 1: Save $1000 Emergency Fund
  • Step 2: Debt Snowball << This is where I am!
  • Step 3: Save 3-6 months of Expenses
  • Step 4: Invest 15% of Household Income
  • Step 5: College Funding for Children
  • Step 6: Pay off House Early
  • Step 7: Build Wealth & Give!

And remember, the 7 Baby Steps really begin when you create a budget (and stick to it)!  Two great applications that I personally use to help me create a budget are the new Dave Ramsey application Every Dollar and Mvelopes. I can’t use Every Dollar on my phone, since it’s only available for iPhones, so I use the Mvelopes app for my Android. Be sure to check them out and tell me what you think!