I was honored with the invitation to speak at the Faith Missionary Baptist Church Women's Conference in Louisburg, NC. Through my participation in the conference I was inspired by women from different backgrounds reaching and teaching through personal testimony and artistry; the "teacher" quickly became the student as I submerged myself into fruitful conversations with attendees and wrote notes to garner my own plans of revival through fellowship. What a wonderful experience.
In my short time with the group I spoke as God led me on the subject of "Prospering God's Way". I shared with attendees and I want to share with you a concept that's been on my heart since I began my career in finance 8 years ago under God's direction -
We were never meant to be slaves of money, God has always wanted prosperity for us, through good stewardship, patience and discipline.
Good stewardship means utilizing funds wisely, gifting to others in need (we'll get to tithing), and living an abundant life. NOT abundant in the sense of lavishness and greed, but the freewill to do with our money as we please without overextending ourselves. For living beyond our means leads to a lifestyle fueled by stressing over bills, making ends meet and spinning our wheels between paying down debt, just to charge it up again. A life of financial freedom is within grasp, but it does not come without work - there's no such things as "wishing yourself into a better financial situation."
So how do we turn "I wish" into "I will" when it comes to our finances? It's time to create a sound plan followed by a meeting. You do not have to be married to have this meeting, you can have it alone but it should include anyone living in your household (don't forget the kids)! My husband and I have a financial meeting each year - absent from an accountant or facility, just the two of us, in our home office. We create our family spending plan, discuss financial triumphs and pitfalls and put our vision down on paper. It takes hours but it's all worth it. Over the years we've made it more efficient and productive. Here's what we do, perhaps it could help you in one way or the other.
Prior to the Meeting
We make "proposals" beforehand of everything imaginable under the financial scope - trips we want to take, ways to cut down on expenses, even down to holiday planning, you name it, we leave no stone unturned. We also get a few key documents in order:
- Last 3 months of financial transactions
- Net income (fixed and variable)
- Debts: for EACH find out the balance owed, the interest rate, minimum monthly payment, current monthly payment.
- Money achievements over the past year
- Money pitfalls over the past year
- financial goals list
- Savings account balances and interest rates: including emergency savings, retirement savings, investment accounts, NC 529 plans, etc.
During The Meeting
Mike and I have become intentional about opening and closing each financial meeting with prayer. I've included one for you at the end of this post. We thank God because whether we're budgeting 5 cents or 5,000 dollars, He provides. We pray for discipline, and the tools to follow-through on plans. We also pray (and vow) that we respect each other's opinions/wants for the overall money plan. Money matters can be stressful, but they don't have to be. Next, we create a baseline of understanding and respect before diving into the specifics. For example: this year Mike and I came up with an exercise "Me, You, We." We took about 60 seconds to write down highlights/gratitude of what we did well during the previous year (August - August) in 3 categories. In my "Me" section among other things I wrote - "I'm proud of myself for consistently tithing 10% of my income;" for "You" I put "Mike reduced our cable bill by over $100 by installing a fire stick;" and under "We" I acknowledged the fact that - "We put more money into our joint savings over the last year than we'd done since we've been married." After the gold stars have been given, and everyone's feeling empowered to move on - serve the meat and potatoes. Go over the above documents with a fine-toothed comb. Remember, this meeting will only work if you come prepared. The scripture reminds us - "they were naked and unashamed" Genesis 2:25. There are no secrets or mistakes we can't discuss and for that reason we make the effort to make each other feel comfortable sharing the nitty-gritty for the betterment of our unit. Calculate each persons income minus the fixed/variable components. If you have money left over, how can you reallocate so that all monies are accounted for? Boost savings? Put more towards high interest debt? Make an extra car payment? Whatever your personal case. Make a plan for the overage (or deficit).
This is also where the 3 months of financial transactions will come in handy. Look for the "fritters" (unnecessary items you spend money on) and find trends. I noticed that I was spending way too much on sushi excursions way too often. Although I can surely blame it on the pregnancy cravings😜 I still had to take ownership and make the decision to make a change. We can't correct what we do not "see;" so if you're operating day in and day out by swiping your card but not paying attention to what you're purchasing, you will find yourself in the classic game of hoping the funds match the intentions instead of the other way around. The rest of our time is spent on reviewing proposals for how to spend our money. Here's the fun part - instead of feeling burdened by the things you have to buy, change your perspective that you get to plan as a team the things you get to buy. Meet obligations with expectancy that God will see it through and prepare ahead of time so that you're not blind-sighted. In our case, we are planning for Baby Holloway's nursery. Staring at a space in our home that used to be an exercise room, now preparing to make it comfortable to a new baby girl will take some thrift and special care; we're now ready for the challenge! Another reason why we meet in August vs. January is because we're closer to the holiday season and can discuss plans of travel, hosting of gatherings, gifts, outings, you name it. All the above require money, so why not review early? Another suggestion could be to plan your meeting for when you anticipate your income will increase (merit raises, new job, etc.). This way you can plan to increase your retirement savings by at least 1% and/or up your mortgage principle payment to build equity!
After The Meeting
Vision is embracing a future that you have not seen. Turn your written notes into actionable steps to reach your dreams and goals. Create check-in points to make sure you're staying on task. Don't think of your plan as set in stone, be flexible and open to changes. Do not limit yourself and do not set up a barrier to what God can do. Lastly, make sure you make room in your schedule to do something fun and relaxing after the meeting is over. After all, we're not fooling anyone by pretending that the "finance talk" is easy; discussing money can be pretty heavy so end on a high note! Welp, now that you have your call to action, here's my prayer for you -
Lord, we come to you with a humble and open heart. We come seeking guidance, direction and correction when it comes to our financial well-being. Today I pray for more trusting and less stressing; more tithing and less selfishness; a deeper relationship with You by finding joy in the simple essentials and less focus on the excessive/unnecessary. Motivate us to be good stewards, to think before we charge and to evaluate prior to big purchases. I'm praying for blessed finances and windfalls beyond our wildest interpretations! We give you the honor and the praise in every circumstance. God grant us the vision, and help it come to pass. Amen!
I'm here to help and I want to hear from you! Was this helpful? Do you have questions? Drop me a line in the comments. I can't wait to hear of what great plans you develop.