This could be the most ludicrous title anyone has ever put on a blog post. Who has joyful finances, except perhaps the rich? But even those with a lot of money carry the burden of how to spend and invest that money. No, joyful finances are not linked to a dollar amount or even a perceived sense of financial security. Joyful finances are built upon the foundation of contentment.
1 Timothy 6:6 says that, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” What that means to me is that if we seek to have the character of Christ, and are content with what we have, we are richer than the wealthiest person on earth. Having lots of money and lots of stuff doesn’t bring peace and happiness, as our culture would have us believe. (For a great illustration of our society’s obsession with stuff, watch the online video at www.storyofstuff.com.) Deep peace and joy come from a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Would it surprise you to know that I have a deep peace and joy over our financial situation while my husband is currently unemployed? Our monthly unemployment checks don’t even cover our mortgage. We have no idea when or where my husband will get a job, but we have peace because we know that God has promised to be with us wherever we go (Joshua 1:9). He has always taken care of our needs, and often surprises us by meeting them in the most amazing ways – often through the generosity of others, because that’s how God likes to work. I can’t begin to describe how exciting it is to take a need to the Lord in prayer, and then watch Him fill it in the most unmistakable way. I look forward to sharing some of these stories with you.
One reason we’re still afloat financially is because we began living on an extremely tight budget a year before my husband lost his job. Because we knew in advance that my husband’s company might lose their funding, we had a year to save every penny and build up our savings. Over the last 15 months I have refined my skills at thrift and frugality, and I plan to share many of these tips in future posts. But the key, I discovered, to really saving money is simply to be content or find a way to make do with what you have. In practical terms, it means asking if you really need a particular item, even if it is an incredible bargain. For instance, I have a weakness for the dollar store. I go in to buy a few items I know I can get cheaper at the dollar store than at the grocery store, and come out with bags full of junk we don’t need (which will most likely fall apart) just because it was a great deal. I may only spend $10 on those 10 items, but if I had chosen to be content instead of buying them solely for the satisfaction of getting a great deal, I would have saved $10. (Instead, I have countless candles, workbooks my kids won’t use, party supplies…) Coupons and grocery sales can also be dangerous in this way, particularly since many coupons are for junk food, which no one needs.
In future posts I plan to share some of the information I’ve gathered and how it can help you become a savvier shopper, like knowing the rock-bottom price of an item so you’ll know when to stock up. (I’m pretty sure I’m part squirrel because I love to stockpile.) I’ll also share my grocery and menu planning strategy that allows our family of 4 to eat:
- healthy (which, in our case, also means gluten free*),
- real (not processed so that all the nutrition has been removed, and instead “fortified with vitamins” to sound healthy),
- delicious food for less than $500/month (which also includes our paper goods, pet supplies, and toiletries).
That amount may seem high to some of you, but when you consider that a 10 lb. bag of flour costs less than $2, and a 1 lb. bag of gluten free flour costs $4 – not to mention that gluten free pasta and other specialty items cost 3 to 4 times the price of regular food – this number is actually quite impressive.
Since the grocery budget tends to be the one budget with the most wiggle room, I’ll mainly focus on this area, sharing menus and shopping tips. But from time to time, I’ll share other cost-saving strategies and let you know about any good deals we find on entertainment. No matter how small the budget, I always have some money set aside for entertainment. The smaller the budget, the more creativity is required, but we all need to play and celebrate both as a couple and as a family. That’s part of having joyful finances, remembering to set aside time and money to enjoy being with those you love. I look forward to sharing this journey of Joyful Finances with you!
*A note about being gluten free: If you are not on the gluten free diet, don’t let that scare you off. Most of what we eat is “real” food that is naturally gluten free (rice, corn, potatoes). My family members are gluten intolerant, but I still eat wheat and have one foot in both worlds. So while my menus and recipes will be gluten free by default, I will also list wheat substitutions where appropriate. If you are gluten intolerant, be sure and read my Gluten Free Survival Guide and watch for recipes just for you!