Well folks its been fun.
This is the final installment of our 13 Weeks to Family Financial Freedom After a Crisis series. Although I can’t honestly say, after just 13 weeks of effort, we are now flying high; I can say we are not in a financial free fall. We are gliding to freedom on the wings of God’s grace–and frankly, the view has been both frightening and exhilarating.
In “5 Rules for Lifting Your Family Out of Economic Hardship” I rolled out my “13 weeks” goals: Track daily my progress on a Seinfeld calendar, write a new budget, assess our lifestyle, cut living expenses by 40 percent and increase our income by at least that much.
Tracking my daily progress on a calendar didn’t work out as planned. Turns out, my inconsistency is the most consistent thing about me. My failure could be attributed to my personality type or the fact that my stated goals for marking-off days needed to be more concrete (low-tech operator error). Did you do it? Yes is an X, no is a blank spot or a “broken chain.” Which is, of course, its original purpose.
It did serve as sort of an invisible timer constantly running in the background of my mind. The designated days combined with weekly progress posts certainly kept me focused. In that, I’m declaring it a success.
The new budget is still in flex, as 13 weeks is only three months of budgeting with an inconsistent and unreliable monthly income. However, it is in place and we are growing more comfortable living within its bounds. I found a combination of using the YNAB, and good old fashion pen and paper works the best for us. We already owned YNAB. I added the phone apps so my husband and I have equal access and responsibility in maintaining the budget.
The only downfall to using YNAB, is that it does not allow you to project income or plan for next month’s bills, that’s where pen and paper comes in handy.
Gone are the days of dining out regularly, recreational shopping and living comfortably under a mortgage. In assessing our lifestyle, I’ve realized the best safety net we can have is a mortgage free home.
In retrospect, the goal of cutting our cost of living by 40 percent is unattainable–expenses fluctuate and there’s no way to cut unexpected expenditures by any percentage. I held a misconceived presupposition that I could control living expenses. Control is almost always an illusion. A more accurate and obtainable goal– remove all unnecessary spending and reassess. Repeat as needed.
The real success of our 13 weeks together didn’t come in achieving my stated goals.
Instead, it was in the lessons I didn’t know I needed to learn.
1. Thankfulness and contentment is the key to happiness.
Rather than dwelling on what we lack, I learned to look closer at what I do have — and take better care of it. In doing so, it became easy to be thankful for all our blessings.
It’s amazing how adjusting your focus allows you to see things that you never saw before, like what really matters to you.
2. Honesty is essential.
Just like breaking the speed limit seems acceptable when you’re running late to an important meeting, the temptation of even the slightest dishonesty seems justifiable. It’s not. It’s hard enough to lose your money, hang on to your integrity– it’s much harder to earn back.
3. Plant flowers along the way.
Make sure to spend time and even a little money on something that brings joy to your life. Don’t deprive yourself of the little things. It’s false nobility. It’s the small simple pleasures that can give you the strength for the real sacrifices you need to face.
4. Be generous.
The first time we faced financial hardship, I told myself I would give if I could. In reality we all have something to give. Hiding behind my belief that I didn’t have anything to spare was my fear I wouldn’t have enough left for my family. Truth is, being generous with all that you have, be it large or small, is a spiritual issue. It’s a trust issue.
I learned that my generosity is an excellent gage of my trust in my God.
5. Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it.
For years we prayed that one day Mike would be able to spend time with his children and rapidly growing population of grandchildren. We dreamed of the day when he could retire, and with the children grown, I would write full time. I could support him, just as he has always supported me.
I don’t believe God put us through this just to teach us lessons. I do believe Romans 8:28