Whether you’re struggling to catch up, or just starting out, there are three principles of financial freedom that can help you.
In my last post, I gave you A Personal Prayer for Financial Freedom as a good place to start. I hope you’ll review that or read it if you haven’t already.
Today I’ve chosen to give you a transparent look at our financial testimony and God’s faithfulness to us as a married couple through our five decades of marriage.
Even on our family’s limited income, my pastor father taught me early the value of a dollar and how to do three things that helped set a pattern in my life.
Three Principles of Financial Freedom
The principles we learned were:
1. Give some (always a tenth from my small allowance).
2. Save some (also a tenth when I could).
3. Spend the rest wisely. (On my allowance, there wasn’t much to spend!)
The Value of Budgets
As a young child, I learned the value of budgeting. I spread out all my envelopes and distributed my coins accordingly. Coins? Yes. Out of my simple $1.00 a week allowance, I allotted a dime to give back to God, ten cents to save for a special, future purpose or to begin a small savings account, and the rest for expenditures like cokes, books, gifts, etc.
As I grew, so did allowances, as well as household jobs that earned a little extra—but always using the three principles above. I snagged a retail job in high school and the following summer saved as much as I could.
Our Marriage Testimony about Financial Freedom
Then I married a minister. Between the two of us we started out with $500 savings and moved into our $55 a month rental cottage, where the wallpaper breathed when the west Texas winds blew. We survived my husband’s final year of college and three years of seminary by using those same three principles—while I earned my MRS. and PHT degree (Putting Hubby Through).
Then came kids. In my husband’s last year of seminary, he attended school from 8:00 A.M. until 2:00 P.M, and worked from 3:00 P.M. until midnight, all the while pastoring a small church. Those were hard years, but God brought us through.
As a Stay-at-Home Mom, I added to our income through the years with short-term jobs and eventually earned writing paychecks. For the next twenty years or so, those three financial principles changed slightly, but our desire for good stewardship and financial freedom never did.
Slight Change in Our Financial Freedom Principles
As the years passed, our principles looked more like this:
1. Give more (always a tenth plus special gifts)
2. Save what we could (which was none, some years)
3. Stagger the rest from paycheck to paycheck to pay bills.
Gradually, our budget “savings” fund meant setting aside money for emergencies, home or car repair, vacation, etc. Through those years I learned to barter skills or goods with friends (like cosmetics or haircuts in exchange for greeting cards I wrote).
My parents had taught us kids well how to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” I learned to sew, stretch clothing, and design a wardrobe with a few basic essentials (which I later taught to women: “How to Look Like a Million for a $100”).
For the most part, in those early years, we drove used cars except for one, and made car payments for those at first, eventually paying cash as we were able to save. Most other purchases we saved for, refusing to run up expensive credit card bills. We rented for the first ten years of our marriage. The down payment for our first home was a gift to us by a Christian builder, and the sale of that house ten years later supplied us with a down payment for our next home and cash for the furniture we needed.
The New Look of our Financial Freedom Principles
By the time our girls attended college, God used scholarships, their own jobs, and my stay-at-home writing income to help fund their expenses. It wasn’t until they married and left home that those three principles of financial freedom took on a new look:
1. Give even more (because God always provided it).
2. Save more.
3. Spend less.
Yes, you read that right. The joy of giving increased as God opened our eyes and pocketbooks to the needs around us. One of the prime reasons God blesses us and gives us anything other than because of His grace and love is so we can be channels of blessing to others. He gives to us, so we can give to others. He gives back to us, so we can spread His wealth (See 2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT).
God doesn’t expect us to give what we don’t have. But He does ask us to give Him back first a portion of what already belongs to Him.
Two Helpful Resources for Financial Freedom
No one really taught us more than the basics of money management, but somewhere through the last two decades, we encountered the late Larry Burkett’s book on How to Manage Your Money. His practical suggestions gave us both affirmation of our money management practices and further practical help. Dave Ramsey’s teachings on financial peace and his book Total Money Makeover (affiliate link) are resources we highly recommend.
What Financial Freedom Is Not
Now in retirement, I’ve thought a lot about how I’d define financial freedom—and maybe how it’s changed through the years. To me, it’s not:
1. Freedom to buy and spend as your heart desires.
2. Freedom with no accountability to anyone.
3. Monetary wealth, with ample accumulations.
Hardly. We’ve been downsizing for a quarter of our lives. In fact, we never really upsized. Instead of making the choice to buy a new home, we chose to retire in our older one. We’ve updated it, adding beauty to it on the inside and the outside as God gave us opportunity. We’ve taken trips, (some were gifts, and some were our own purchases), and we’ve paid our bills on time. We haven’t scrimped, and we owe no debts.
God’s Faithfulness to Us
What I didn’t tell you, is that through those five decades of marriage, we made our share of wise and unwise decisions. We also experienced times of unemployment when fifteen-cent hamburgers sustained us for a couple of weeks, a season of making two house payments until one sold, and the experience of resigning from a pastorate with no place to go.
In that particular situation, we had seven weeks of accumulated income to sustain us. We had no government help and no unemployment checks promised to us in the future. But at the beginning of the 8th week when our savings ended, my husband walked into his office at a new church position.
I could relate story after story of testing, of both mistakes and learning, but I’ll save that for another blog—or another book. God has been nothing but faithful to us. He has blessed us more than we could have possibly imagined.
Your Testimony May Look Different
That’s our financial testimony, but it may look completely different from yours. We made our own choices. So can you. Some of you can testify to the same faithfulness of God, even though your circumstances are not the same.
Some are still in the throes of COVID blues, and choices were made for you, out of your control. Your job income has been reduced or severed. Many are trying to get back on their feet, and some are starting over completely. And many of you are struggling to know where to turn. We hurt for you, and we pray for you constantly and for God to meet your needs.
Always remember, though, that even though your situation or circumstances may seem out of control, your attitude and belief in God’s provision can stay the same. Gratitude always breeds a good attitude.
A Challenge to You
No matter what your situation, I’m challenging you to take God at His Word. He has promised to supply all your needs (Philippians 4:19). I have encouraged women before when they had no income to tithe, to at least tithe their time. When you give of yourself and whatever you have, God loves to give back.
A part of financial freedom may include sacrifice. As you are able, find one thing you can do without if possible and start saving that small amount. Some can save by giving up a luxury item; others may have to be more sacrificial and perhaps give up one meal, choosing to fast or eat lighter instead.
How I Define Financial Freedom
Financial freedom, to me, has come to mean the freedom to give God back all that we can, when we can, because He has given so much to us. It’s using His resources wisely to make a difference for His kingdom, however He allows us to. It’s freedom not to owe anyone anything, but love (Romans 13:8 NLT).
More Great Resources for You
In the last couple of weeks, I was excited to hear a message that confirmed—and went beyond—anything I could say to you regarding financial freedom and God’s faithfulness to us in every area of life. In fact, I’m giving you the link. I hope you’ll bookmark and listen prayerfully to this video message as you have time. Within it, you’ll find some of the same principles I’ve mentioned, but even more, along with biblical guidelines and special resources available just for you.
Thanks for reading to the end. I commend you and challenge you to try these principles. God’s Word works. And His promises never fail.
It’s Your Turn
What about you? Is your desire to move toward financial freedom and become a good steward of what God has given you? What choices are you making to reach that goal? I’d love to hear from you anytime. You can always write me through my contact page. If you’ll fill out the basic name and address info, then the e-mail will come to me. Your name or info will never be shared with anyone without your permission.
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