In the time since I last posted I have somehow survived my first experience at Kids Camp. It was an exciting, l.o.n.g. week, but in the end I had a great time. The worship leader approached me at the end of camp to inquire about me possibly leading worship next year, and I was very honored to be considered. I didn't give a yes or no yet - we'll see.
Matthew and I also just passed the one month of marriage mark yesterday. We celebrated with some steak and shrimp at la casa and had a discussion about finances since we were able to see a whole month's worth of spending and saving post-wedding. If you don't use a finance tracking software of some kind, I highly suggest using Mint.com. It tracks all of your inbound and outbound finances and gives you an overview at the end of the month, which you can then compare to past months. We were very glad that we've been using it for a few months now because we're able to see where we're spending unnecessarily and where we've done well (and where we can save more, too).
One of the bigger decisions we made last night is to re-arrange our charitable giving a little bit. For a while now I've felt convicted about what organizations we give our money to and how they use that money. Ultimately, we decided that we would very much like to sponsor one or two children through Compassion International, which is a highly esteemed organization. We love what they do and that we can have direct communication to and from the child(ren) we sponsor. I'm looking forward to posting more about this in the future.
All in all, we learned quite a few things from our discussion last night that I think are good, general principles regarding money. I really wanted to keep this list to 5 things but really couldn't decide which one to cut, so here are six.
- Tithe. If you're a Christ-follower, tithing is so essential to your spiritual health. This is a lesson I learned from the hubs (mostly). Among other countless, good reasons to tithe, I think one of the most important is that it helps us remember that the money we have is only ours because God has allowed it to be.
- Know where your money is going. If you don't know where it's going, you're not being very responsible for your spending. It's that simple. Track your finances and know how much money is in your account and how much debt you have. You'll be much more fiscally responsible that way.
- Just because you have money doesn't mean it has to be spent. Or, in other words, SAVE. Since it's just the two of us, we could be (and will be) saving a lot more than we are because our needs are few. Once we have children, we won't have as much freedom to do that. So our plan is to save now so that we aren't strapped later.
- Give money away. One of the principles Matthew and I are trying to learn is if we give money away (i.e., donate to charity), it becomes less important as a whole. We want to be able to have the mentality that money is not where our security rests, so much so that we can simply give it away. This is in part why we have chosen to give money to charitable organizations (separate from our tithes).
- Budgets are our friends. Matthew and I have several financial goals for the next couple of years, like replacing my car and buying a house (among others). We decided that the best way for us to achieve that goal is to budget. In the past we've kept a very loose budget, mainly keeping it up enough to make sure bills get paid. But we want to keep to a stricter budget so we can save (see point #3) and teach ourselves to spend only what's necessary (aside from the occasional splurge). So to start out we will be using cash for groceries and entertainment because those are two areas where we tend to overspend. Basically, we will take out a certain amount of cash every month for these two "departments" and use only that cash stash to pay for those things. This way we will - hopefully - get a better, visual grasp of how to stick within our budget.
- Establish good communication between yourself and your significant other (if you have one). This has been one of the best lessons Matthew and I have learned over the course of our relationship, and not just in regard to finances. We believe that it's so essential to keep communication open, especially in relation to finances, and to make financial decisions together. Our conversation last night would not have gone nearly as well if one or the other of us made all of the decisions without consulting the other. This has also helped us keep each other financially accountable to the other because our decisions are made together.
I could probably talk about this stuff all day. And I realize that what I'm saying isn't anything new and that I'm still a rookie at marriage. But perhaps - I hope - this is a good reminder.