I have felt God nudging me to share with you some truths that I have come to learn over the last 4 years. I’m gonna tell you a little about my journey, how some things are easy to learn while others have to be learned the hard way…I’m gonna be honest with ya…I ain’t gonna lie to you. It. Ain’t. Pretty. (just keepin’ it real) But it’s all for the greater good (at least that is what I keep telling myself, lol)
It’s a really long post (consider yourself warned). Sooo, if you need a good laugh…grab a cup a joe…settle in and start readin’ 😉
I share in my classes that when we actually sat down and prepared a budget for the first time..I didn’t like it…I was sorta like one of those bad kids you see in Toys R Us after their mom just told them No, you can’t have that toy…you know the one that kicks and screams and generally makes it known that their not happy! Well, that was me…I mean I wanted to be debt free…I really did…BUT I also didn’t like feeling restricted or like I was be told what I could or could not buy. You know…the whole “if the envelope is empty that means no more spending” restriction…You’ve been there right? (please say yes)
It was really hard for me, but after some prayer time and some soul searching I realized that Dave was right…yes, Dave…you know, the great DR…Dave Ramsey. Yeah, he was right…if you always do what you’ve always done, then you will always get what you have always gotten…OUCH! Thanks ever so much DAVE! 🙂 So basically he meant if I continued to use credit cards to purchase the stuff we didn’t need in the first place…then I would continue to get the bills in the mail asking me to pay for the stuff that we bought that we didn’t need in the first place and while I was at it I could throw in a little interest too, just as a stupid tax? Yep, that’s what he meant!
Soooo…we sat down and I made a conscious decision to try and do better with our money. We started planning things and buying things only when we had the money not just the available credit (’cause there is a big difference in a credit line and cash money…can I get a witness???)
We also put God first and started tithing BEFORE we paid the bills (man did that ever make a difference…but that’s a whole nother post). Then we starting paying things off as quick as we could…we cut up the credit cards and tore up every offer that came in the mail. We shut off the cable, starting using coupons, sold our house and started renting…all the things that you should do when trying to get out of debt…BUT there was still one battle that we still seemed to fight. CHRISTMAS.
This was me (in a nutshell)…I always LOVED Christmas in December when I could go buy the gifts that I wanted to buy ’cause I had the credit cards to charge it…BUT then I dreaded, no…hated January when the bills would come for all that charging…yeah, January was a drag! BUT then February would come and hey, we could do our taxes and then…whoopie…we had some money again……..NOT! That just meant that we had money to pay the credit card bills. That made me dread February!!! Can ya see the cycle here??? (Hey, I warned ya it wasn’t pretty 🙂
But all that changed when we embraced 2 principles…
1) It ain’t about the gifts.
2) It is about Jesus. THE gift.
Since we started walking the road to becoming debt free, I have found that each Christmas becomes sweeter and just gets better! Let me tell you why…the first year we started out on a cash only Christmas budget it was tough…but we were determined that we would make the best out of a low budget Christmas and find the joy in the true meaning of Christmas…those two things changed our Christmas outlook for the better AND more importantly it shaped our kids mentality on Christmas.
We started teaching our kids the things that we really had always believed and knew were the true heart of Christmas, but that we had somehow lost sight of in all the hustle and bustle. Here are 5 simple things we did that made a BIG difference in our holidays:
1) We refocused on the true meaning of Christmas…we started reading scriptures and bible stories to the kids, we made an advent wreath and bought an advent calendar to celebrate the birth of Jesus for the entire month…each day the kids would get a treat and we would share something that we were thankful for, we sang carols and hymns, we would read books, make crafts and just enjoy time honored traditions…Little things that make a huge impact!
2) We focused on giving to others…Angel Tree kids, kids from school, kids from church, our Compassion kids…that kind of thing. We started adopting families that couldn’t provide Christmas for one reason or another. Don’t get me wrong, we have always been givers…it’s my nature…I LOVE to give…it makes me happy! But for some reason at Christmas time, I would loose sight of that and I would focus more on what my kids needed and how I wasn’t able to buy all the things that I wanted them to have…when the truth was they didn’t “need” anything, they had everything they needed already. Giving to others became a priority…it happened before we did anything else…the kids began to love this and now they look forward to it every year…they anticipate it 🙂
3) We cut down the ole’ Christmas list. We told our friends and family that we just could not buy for everyone (though we would love to). Then we asked for understanding and in the end no one hated us for it. (whew) Man, did that lift a load off my shoulders…no more worry about what to buy, would they like it, where was the money coming from…it was no longer an issue. If the year’s budget allowed, then we would make homemade gifts for those special people…but if it did not, I knew there was always next year. I learned that if people really love ya…the lack of a gift is not gonna be a deal breaker for the relationship. Truth be told, most people want to crack their list down too, but are afraid of hurting your feelings…you’re really just helping them to help you 🙂
4) We stuck to a cash only Christmas budget…meaning if we could not pay cash for it, then we could not buy it…plain and simple! Each person on the list had a set amount of money that could be spent on them and guess what…you can learn to be really resourceful when given a limited budget. It’s true. Now, repeat after me…sales and coupons are my friends…(your turn)…great job, you said that with such enthusiasm 🙂 Seriously though…it’s true…pair a great sale up with a great coupon and SHAZAM…you just got an AWESOME deal on something that other people are paying full price for. One other tip…pray about finding those great deals…God cares about the little details too you know…if it’s important to you, it’s important to Him. When I get a great deal on something…my husband calls it “favor dust”…he does this little dance, all while pretending to sprinkle favor dust on his head…true story! He’s crazy like that…but then again isn’t our God just as CRAZY about us? I know, I know…TMI (but you know your laughing right now, just picture the dance 😉 Really though…every time he does that, it reminds me that God’s favor was upon us…gotta love that!
5) We implemented our friends Brandon & Kelley’s kid proof giving plan…I have to tell you that this is one of those things that I just think it so SMART! (Thanks Kel for sharing it with us)
We only buy 3 gifts each for our kids…one big one and two small ones…Why is that, you ask? Simple, really…the wisemen brought Jesus 3 gifts…so it all ties right back into the Christmas story. Now, our kids are still little…so they still get Santa gifts…but whadda ya know, that Santa…well, he’s a pretty SMART fella too…’cause he also only brings 3 gifts each and did you know that he loves to read the Christmas story in the bible while he eats his milk and cookies 😉 yep…he is one smart fella, I tell ya!
I love “Advent Conspiracy” and their Christmas can still change the world campaign…Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More and Love All!