I am about to do something Southern women simply do not do.
Talk about money.
On the Rude and Tacky Scale for Southern Women, discussing finances falls somewhere above mismatched Christmas lights on the house and below wearing white after Labor Day.
But for the purposes of today’s discussion, I want to be completely transparent here.
At the end of a regular month, after all the boxes are checked, we have $18 left over.
Of course, there are some months when we use a little less energy or have to fill the gas tank one extra time so things do shift. There are months when we have a bit more and there are months when we have a bit less. But strictly sticking to our monthly budget, we end up with $18 of margin.
The reason I felt you needed to know that is this: I want you to know I get it.
Tight budgets, no extras, coupons, not buying new unmentionables (also on the Rude & Tacky Scale) until well past holes and non-functional elastic. We do not eat out. We do not pay for entertainment. We do not buy new clothes or new toys.
I get it.
Finding margin in our budget to give, and give generously, is a challenge.
Secondly, I need to acknowledge this: We are choosing to be a one-income family.
We firmly believe God called me home, asking me to lay down my career, my retirement dreams of a house on the water, our safety net of extra income. He doesn’t call us to places of comfort. He calls us to places where we have to depend on Him entirely, and FOR US, that is living as a one-income family. So while I used the word “choosing,” what we believe we are doing is “obeying” and that is a distinctive difference.
We are obediently a one-income family.
Because my CHOICE would be to eat out and buy all the Target tank tops I could stand.
So this is where we are, friends. Living frugally in obedience and, yet, still called to give to the needy, look after the widows and care for the orphans.
Today, let’s imagine us at my kitchen table. Invitations were sent. You came. And now you are here for some gluten-free peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and sweet tea served over ice in mason jars. I’ve even gotten out my aqua napkins and adorable paper straws because I care and because I am Southern and therefore have no idea how to have a truly low-key moment in my house. You’re welcome.
This past weekend, my daughter and I were enjoying some girl time. We hit the grocery store, the craft store, a home decor store, and even the dollar store. Almost every place we went, two messages called out to us and every other shopper:
Give to Hurricane Harvey Victims!
Those ideas belong together. Especially when we watch the images of devastation flash on our screens, we are grateful. Grateful for the people who were rescued. Grateful for the rescuers. Grateful to be able to help. Grateful to give what we can. Grateful to see so many people from all walks of life coming together.
Giving and Gratitude.
We have witnessed an outpouring of both.
Are you feeling a little bit like I am? Like in the midst of absolute devastation, we are seeing God make beauty? Beauty from ashes. Beauty in our love for others. Beauty in our sacrificial giving. Beauty in our overwhelming gratitude.
And if you’re like me, living on that tight budget, shopping grocery sales, making every dollar stretch, your heart longs to give, and give joyfully, sacrificially, but your head tells you something totally different.
How do we give when our margin is less than a drive-thru meal for a family of four?
What if we talked through some ideas on how to stretch our $18 margin to make sure we could give? And maybe not only when there’s a hurricane but maybe when our neighbor comes home from the hospital or when our co-workers decide to adopt at Salvation Army Angel at Christmas or our kid’s teacher asks for donations to her classroom supplies for the second semester.
Here are some ideas…
Ever heard the Type A motto, “Failure to plan is planning to fail?”
High five to all the accountants and engineers of the world. Gosh, we love you.
There are certain times of the year when giving is just a thing. Christmas, the beginning of the school year, Thanksgiving, Prom season.
When you have just a little extra, shop clearance. After Christmas, the big stores like Walmart and Target put their left-over toys on crazy sale. Like 70 – 90% off crazy sale. Think Toy for Tots. Think kids’ friends birthday parties. Think of your own kids. It’s completely acceptable to plan ahead for your own children. That opens up some space to buy for others later.
Spending $5 on a toy in January instead of $19.99 for the same toy in December makes sense.
Follow the same idea for school supplies. Buy those the week before Labor Day. Buy clothes to donate at the end of a season and save them for the next year. Walmart marks their tee shirts or shorts down to $1. Coats as low as $5.
Start shopping for food early. Last year, WinCo had turkeys on sale for $.25 a pound. Only catch? It was in October. Buy one extra can of beans in August and then corn in September. Buy one extra every month of the year and by Thanksgiving or Easter, you’ll have a bag of food to donate to the food drive at school or at church.
Plan ahead so that when you see the amazing deal or you budget just one can more a month, you are ready.
Shop Second Hand and Yes, Go to the Wealthy Parts of Town…
Does that somehow sound odd? Or uncomfortable? Why? Listen, I am ALL IN on driving 45 minutes to spend a Sunday afternoon hitting consignment shops and thrift stores where I know the best merchandise will be.
But let’s start with the simple…and current: Halloween Costumes.
The consignment shops and thrift stores around here start putting out their costumes next weekend. Buy a second-hand costume for $8 or $10 and save the cash you would have spent for a new costume. Even on sale.
Or create a costume from thrift store finds. Kids are super creative. They’d love the freedom to create on a thrift store $1 tee shirt.
For our family, we buy almost exclusively second-hand. Spending more than $10 on a single piece of clothing feels frivolous for us. I would rather buy a cute dress for $8 at a consignment shop so I can buy a new coat for our PTA clothing store. It’s that simple.
And really, I have bought so many things new with tags at thrift stores, I sometimes feel spoiled!
Buy second hand on what you can and put the difference between that and what you have budgeted in your stash to give.
Pool Your Resources…
One of the great things about knowing your neighbors or being involved in a small group at church or joining the school PTA, you can work together.
The neighborhood school collects donations for all kinds of needs. I may not be able to buy everything on a donation list for Harvey victims but I can buy something on the list. I can’t adopt a teacher’s classroom on my own but with four or five of my neighbors, we can support that teacher and her students well. An entire meal for a friend who’s daughter is in the hospital might be a stretch, but I can make a salad or the spaghetti while other small group members contribute too.
When we live in community with others, we become stronger, as families, as individuals, as givers. We are better together, friend.
Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Reach out and see if your neighbors would be willing to help. Or the next time you’re doing your front yard people thing and having coffee together, throw out an idea about hosting a neighborhood event to raise money. Don’t be ashamed to ask for others to help. If anything, Harvey has shown us people are anxious to give. Be the person who invites others to give along with you.
Create an Abundance Jar…
Literally, wash that left over spaghetti sauce glass jar. Scrub that label off. Slap a piece of masking tape on the front and write ABUNDANCE. Then put that sucker right in the middle of your life.
On the kitchen table. On the entry table. In your car center console so when you have left over change from your morning caffeine, you drop that extra change in there.
Have a garage sale. That cash goes into the jar.
Make some lemonade and cookies for the kids to sell in the front yard. That goes in the jar.
Sell your own clothes and your kids’ clothes to a consignment shop. Money goes in the jar.
Birthday money. Christmas cash. Tax refunds. Whenever extra money comes in and it doesn’t have a place in the budget, it goes in the jar. It is your ABUNDANCE.
Goodness, how I wish you were actually at my kitchen table to have this discussion. It feels so powerful. So needed. So worth it.
And it also sounds so hard. It sounds so sacrificial. It sounds so extreme even.
But my life? And maybe your life? We are good. We have enough. And most months, we have more than enough. Even if our only safety net is $18. Even if our culture tells us that’s too little, not enough, negligible, we know and receive it as abundance, over and above providing us our daily bread, and we can trust The One who faithfully provides for us enough to worshipfully, gratefully, generously give it back in service to Him and to our neighbors.
We give from the abundance God has already provided. And we give gratefully.
Even if that’s only $18.
What ideas do you have for living a life of grateful giving? Grab a cookie and share with us!