The temporary pleasure I received for buying something special for myself was not as good as the long-term feeling I felt being able to sleep at night, knowing our bills were paid and we lived free from mounds of credit card debt.
We enter the relationship with certain expectations about each aspect of our marriage, including our finances. Since I watched my father be the sole breadwinner, pay the bills, and deal with the finances, I naturally assumed my husband would too. But it wasn't until I discovered unpaid bills (and our ever-expanding credit card debt) that I realized I just couldn't do that anymore. Many nights I spent worrying about if we'd ever get out of the financial debt we were in. But instead of feeling hopeless about my situation, I decided to do something about it.
If you are in lots of financial debt in your marriage, there's hope. There are things you can do to turn the finances around in your marriage too.
Here are some suggestions that worked for me:
Let Go of Preconceived Notions
First, I had to let go of my preconceived notions of someone else helping with the bills and take over the bills myself. Since I was the one who paid the bills, I planned to pay bills off early and allocate additional funds to two large loans. This means I had to become responsible for the finances. After taking control of the situation, I reduced my sleepless nights because I had hope that through some hard work and God's help, we would get out of the debt we were in. I made a specific plan with each of our paychecks and strategically placed different bills in each category based on how much was being taken out each month. I balanced them so that no bill was being paid on one paycheck. This helped give us the breathing room to have extra money to spare and, consequently, more money to save at the end of each pay period. I made a game to reward myself every time I could save the extra money left in our account before the next paycheck.
Second, I had to take responsibility for my part in the matter. Although I'm financially responsible, there were charges on the credit card that were unnecessary. I had to make a change in my life and stop spending money I didn't have. If we didn't have enough money in our savings account to cover the cost, I couldn't buy it. Although this was uncomfortable, and I initially was upset about it, I eventually learned this was for our family’s own good. The temporary pleasure I received for buying something special for myself was not as good as the long-term feeling I felt being able to sleep at night, knowing our bills were paid and we lived free from mounds of credit card debt.
Ask God for His Help
Third, I asked God for his help. I asked God for the extra self-control it would take for us to use any extra money we received to pay down extra debt. Although we had our share of extra expenses that popped up that delayed (and sometimes derailed) our plans for financial health, I kept persevering until the debt was paid. There is a special feeling of accomplishment that results from looking at past bills and knowing that I persevered. When it would have been easier to cave and do something fun with the extra money (which was me when I became tempted), God gave me the strength I needed to resist spending that allocated cash. I often reminded myself that nothing beats the feeling of accomplishing the goal. The temporary pleasure of going out to eat or buying some new clothing feels good at the moment but will lead to regret later on.
Find Extra Work
Fourth, I found extra work where I could make some additional money. As a writer, it can be difficult to find jobs that create a consistent income. However, I was able to grab the few writing opportunities I had to help generate extra dollars. In every profession, there are extra ways to make money. If not, a part-time job on weekends may provide a temporary fix.
Fifth, I created incentives to keep going when I was tempted to quit. Having a small reward to look forward to when I accomplished my task helped keep me motivated in the days and months when it felt like my debt was insurmountable. Knowing I gave myself permission to buy something special after I paid off a large amount of debt kept me grounded and kept me feeling like I could enjoy the little things in life.
Sixth, I had to make sure I was tithing appropriately. God not only expects us to trust him with our provision but also to give back to charities and our local church so that they can continue the work of spreading the gospel to others. We gave ten percent of our income even when we felt we couldn't afford it and watched what God did. He may bless you with financial resources you've never seen before. God is a loving Father who likes to give good gifts to his children. When you give ten percent of your income to your church, not only can you allow them to bless those within your church and in the community but also use the finances to spread the gospel around the world.
If you feel like you are drowning in a large amount of debt, I'm here to encourage you that it is possible to become debt free. Everything is possible with God. If you lack self-control in shopping, for example, try hiding or even freezing your credit cards. You can't spend on a card you don't have. Additionally, don't hate your credit cards, but use them for emergencies only. Use them only when you have a plan to pay them off within the first month. Leaving those extra charges on your account can lead to interest rates and fees that can accumulate over time.
By paying off your debt within that first month, you can sleep easy knowing you're not carrying any extra debt around. There is truth in Scripture when it says, “the borrower is a slave to the lender,” as well as, “let no debt remain outstanding except for that which to love each other.” God desires us to live in freedom. This includes financial freedom. God wants us to live within our means and have savings not to acquire wealth but rather to not have to borrow from companies whose job it is to make money from your debt.
If you are having trouble accomplishing financial freedom on your own, seek the help of a friend or mentor at church. Purchase the Financial Peace Course with Dave Ramsey and create a budget that allocates your paychecks appropriately. Create a savings of a couple of thousand dollars so you don't have to rely on credit cards. Buy what you can afford. Buy used if possible. When you refuse to make unnecessary purchases, you will have room for those unexpected expenses that pop up when life happens. Although debt is not always avoidable, do your best to avoid it whenever possible. Demonstrate that you are a good steward of God's money and save as much as you can so you can, in turn, bless those who need it and be known as a cheerful giver to others.
Striking the balance between different attitudes regarding money in marriage is never easy. But if you can agree to save and give to others, it becomes a great way to allow God to turn around your finances in your marriage.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.