I remember having this thought, “Look for ways to be generous Amy,” when I was in my late 20’s. Matt and I got married at the ripe age of 24 and 6 months into our marriage he put us on a budget tighter than my 1990’s, zipper at the bottom, stone washed jeans. Perfect! I love living on less because it’s so natural for me as a human, (insert loads of sarcasm here). Matt presented the idea that we would live off of his salary and save my salary. “Let’s pretend like we don’t even have that money,” he says. I’m like, let’s pretend that we’re married adults and let’s go buy stuff!! Stuff is fun. Stuff makes me happy. Stuff makes me feel pretty. Stuff fills up my house and closets. Matt says, “Let’s live on a strict budget for 5 years and then we’ll make some changes.” Well, it was around the 5 year mark that we sold our first home (for above asking price, praise be to God!) and we scored a great deal on our 2nd home. You know, because we had one kid now and we’d totally outgrown our first home. OK, maybe we had not completely outgrown it but we did want to live closer to Matt’s work and we moved into an amazing school district. So now that our mortgage payment has increased do you really think our budget changed after our 5 year plan…NO IT HAD NOT! If anything we pulled the reigns back even more. Five more years he tells me. You will now find me passed out on my bedroom floor after this announcement.
What I did not tell you is that after I had our first child Mallarie I was able to walk away from my job and never look back. We had built a foundation during that first 5 years that pathed the way for me to be a stay-at-home mom which was our goal. Speaking of goals, we sit down at the beginning of every New Year and make goals for ourselves. They are financial goals, giving goals, spiritual goals, physical goals, and even home improvement and vacation goals to name a few. The vacation goals were my idea. : ) Do you know that you are approximately 90% more likely to meet or exceed your goals if you write them down? I’d say it’s a good time to get out some pen and paper out and set some goals for your family. These aren’t like New Year’s resolutions. These are hard core, nose to the grindstone; don’t look up until you reach them goals.
So back to my 20-something year old selfish self. I believe God dropped that thought into my head to look for ways to be generous because clearly I was not living that way. Whether you are on a strict cash budget like we were or maybe money is simply tight, it can be hard to be generous with your resources. Generosity is not going out and buying gifts for people on your credit card and paying off the minimum balance each month. Don’t even get me started on that! For me, one of my first acts of being generous was buying some socks for 2 of my friends. I was in Old Navy and up at the register they had 3 sets of socks for $1.99. I bought 3 packs, one for me and one for 2 of my friends. This might sound so dumb to some of you reading this…oh wow Amy, you spent $4 on a couple friends…but walk a mile in my budget and it would make sense to you. That $4 gift opened the door to so much more generosity. The saying it’s better to give than receive is so true. Maybe I’d bring a coffee to a friend, make a meal for someone, have friends over for lunch, give away my clothes or belongings instead of trying to sell them. It might shock my current circle of friends to read this, but none of this came natural to me because of 5 years of counting every penny hoping I’d have enough to feed my family. I used to look in my very empty pantry and instead of thinking, we don’t have enough to eat, I thought to myself, I need to have some friends over and feed them. I tell you the truth, every time it was like the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. Afterwards there were always leftovers and I am convinced the food in my pantry would multiply every month. Even to this day when I’m in the store shopping for this or that for another person or family I tell myself, “Amy, look for ways to be generous,” or “Amy, don’t be stingy.”
So maybe being generous is not hard for you. Maybe you are a natural giver. God bless you. May I continue to learn from friends like you! Maybe this will be the first year you set goals for yourself and/or your family and you watch those goals become reality. I cheer you on! Or maybe it’s time to finally get your finances in order, whether you have plenty or not, and instead of wondering where all the money went at the end of each month, YOU tell your money where to go. This will not be the last time you hear this almost 40 year old talk about money. I apologize in advance; but God took this small town farm girl that knew next to nothing when it comes to handling money and gave her all sorts of tools to help others succeed. I thank God and my husband for leading us down the path I didn’t want to go…not the path of less but the path of PLENTY!
One final piece of advice; if you have never heard of Dave Ramsey or taken his Financial Peace University class now is the time to look into it! A great start is reading Dave’s book, The Total Money Makeover. This book is for everyone, whether you have a zillion dollars in the bank or you’re in debt up to your eyeballs. Several churches and organizations across the nation offer Dave’s FPU class. Look it up. It will change your life and your family tree. I PROMISE!!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!