By Steve Dragon
For almost my entire working life, I have lived “hand-to-mouth:” if I had money in my hand, I would use it as quickly as possible to “feed” my passions, whether it be eating or hobbies or travel or cars or… pretty much anything that came up that looked fun or enticing. No budgets. No savings. No planned spending. Only work, get paid, spend it all, work, get paid, spend it all, ad infinitum.
When Beckie and I lived in Bellevue, WA, for a year in the early 1990s, because of our rather destitute circumstances at the time due to periods of unemployment, we decided to try a budgeting program called Rich on Any Income. It was the first time we together had seriously tried to manage a budget. It actually worked for us. We made it through those difficult circumstances as we kept careful records of all our income and expenses and were eventually able to care for ourselves again.
At least for as long as we worked it.
Within a few months of our again becoming steadily and gainfully employed, we stopped using the system and returned to our previous habit of not keeping careful records—more accurately ANY records—of our income and expenses.
In February of 2020, we learned about budgeting and managing debt in a Financial Self-Reliance course offered through our church. Knowing how difficult it had been in the past, but especially how unpleasant it was for me personally, I had a hard time changing my mindset in relation to the principles the class taught, which included budgeting, saving, and avoiding debt. But we were committed to success in the Self-Reliance program in those areas because of our (once again) difficult situation. So we decided to give it a try in March.
Using the most logical tool we had available, the expense tracking software we had used for many years, we entered all of our projected income and all of our known and expected expenses into the budget tool. It came as no big surprise, but nonetheless as quite a disappointment, that our expenses exceeded our income by over $1000 for the month. Amidst spoken and unspoken lamenting, I committed to cancelling several of the online services and other expenditures that I had become accustomed to, which really amounted to only a very small percentage of that, and to see what would happen after doing the best we could. The Lord had always provided for us in our times of need as we had shown our obedience. So we did our best to trust Him again.
And lo and behold, we got through the month without using any credit accounts, while also adding a very modest amount to a savings account, and even making a double payment on one of the credit accounts. We were amazed! It was clearly the Law of Cause and Effect in action as we committed to and acted faithfully in a path of self-reliance.
April went equally well. June was almost as good, but I was already starting to waiver on the budget thing. It was really clunky trying to use the software we were using. Or maybe just the act of trying to keep a formal budget was clunky for me. Whatever the reason, I felt like I could back off from recording the budget in the software and just be as careful as I had been in the previous couple of months in our expenditures.
We ended up basically beginning a nosedive in July, having to use some of our savings and some of the overdraft credit account to get through the month, despite the fact that our income was a little higher that month. Unfortunately, the trend continued in August, when we used the rest of our savings and the rest of our available overdraft credit to get through.
So here’s what I learned…
March through June:
- Cause: Produce and adhere to a budget; save a portion of my earnings; pay down and avoid subsequent use of credit accounts.
- Effect: Miracles happen despite apparent “truths.”
July and August:
- Cause: No budget, only hope; be less careful and attentive about savings and credit being utilized for monthly expenditures.
- Effect: On my own again, with miracles being less obvious or not present at all.
September and forward:
- Cause: Be faithful in producing our budget and in monitoring all accounts regardless of how financially abundant my situation seems to be.
- Effect: Looking forward to more miracles and abundant opportunities!
For more on this topic, click here to read Hidden Treasures: Heaven’s Astonishing Help with Your Money Matters FREE.