An honest conversation about money

Today for the first time I let my financial issues get to me. I made my weekly budget and once again I technically don’t make enough money per pay to carry my expenses. I see the negative number glaring at me in judgment but I move on and mentally make a list of how this is going to work.
  1. I don’t need groceries because I’m going to Buffalo for Thanksgiving. I can survive with what I have.
  2. My childcare paycheck for the church will arrive and be a very welcome blessing.
  3. I have some money in my savings if I need to pull to stay afloat.
  4. If tragedy struck, I have a loving family and credit card with a high limit.
  5. Every month I shouldn’t have enough, but I’m warm and well fed and trust that God will take care of me because He always has and promises He always will.

This checklist is my salvation. When I make it to the end, I feel calm, because I really do trust God with my finances. I don’t allow myself to dwell for too long because I want my faith to be greater than my fear. But today was different.

I love giving gifts. I look forward to keeping notes all year and listening so I can bring joy to the people I love at Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love receiving presents, but giving brings me much more joy. In the past, I’ve ignored my money issues and purchased everything on a credit card because that is the true spirit of Christmas.

After making one more large purchase (laser eyes), I decided to cease using my credit cards all together, even when I was scared. For years I acted like my credit card problem wasn’t an issue and someday when I was older I would have it all paid off and it would be fine. At 25, I’m deeper than ever. Saying it will get better when I’m older with more money is basically like an excuse for an alcoholic to keep drinking until they get a little older and can get it under control.

[Mom, if you read this, I say deeper than ever but it still isn’t so terrifying you need to worry. I didn’t purchase a Jet Ski or art collection that I’m hiding in my basement]

I glanced through my Christmas budget (already significantly decreased) and my present ideas and realized the sad truth – without my credit cards, I can’t afford to do this. The very thought brings tears to my eyes.

Instead of bottling this up and ignoring the instinct to just charge everything, I decided to be honest with my sister. Unsurprisingly, she told me that me staying alive and eating was more important than presents for her or my nieces. I know this is true and I believe my family when they say to not buy them anything, but it hurts. They give me presents and I want to be able to give something in return. I will say again to everyone, please don’t buy me anything. See aforementioned credit card debt to realize I have way more than I could want or need.

Why is there such a stigma in admitting we can’t afford to do something? Why is it shameful to be an adult and say I would love to get you presents, but I’m not financially able? Or dinner out sounds great, but right now my money seems to be on vacation from my bank account.

Most of the time, we won’t admit to most of our friends we can’t afford to do something seemingly as small as dinner out. Saying no to a vacation is one thing, but a meal should be nothing. Everyone can swing $15.

Except we can’t. Not being able to admit that fast food is out of my budget has led to a lot of unnecessary spending.

The other problem? If our friend is gracious and has a little more money, they (or we) will offer to cover. It’s such a wonderful offer, but if you’re the broke friend, it’s like a knife. Free meals from my parents are one thing, but I don’t need your charity. It’s a really harsh reaction to generosity, but I think most of us would prefer a simple ‘that sucks but I understand.’

Admitting we don’t have the money to do something is like saying we don’t have our act together. It makes you vulnerable to the opinions and judgments of others. It’s easier to live like everyone else, justify the expenses and prepare to pay for everything when you’re less frivolous and more prosperous.

Every time I say yes to something I can’t afford, I feel this tugging that I know is God’s stern voice telling me I’m not doing the right thing. Despite this, I still feel His love. I know He hasn’t abandoned me despite that fact that I deserve it. I’ve sworn time and time again to stop spending, but His love never changes even as my convictions do.

God isn’t my get out of jail free card from debt, rather the hope I have in Him and the knowledge that it will not break me. It will beat me down time and time again, but He is greater.

Someday I want to live in a world that encourages living within your means and understands when something is out of your budget. Until then, comfort yourself with this knowledge:

Only 10 percent of the world makes more than $25,000 a year.* This is less than standard entry level salaries for many fields in the United States. Even with our financial problems, many of us are richer than 90 percent of the world. We are the wealthy to most of our planet. Isn’t that insane? It’s also very disturbing.

I complain about my student loans and car payments and cell phone bill, but like half of the world lives in actual poverty. They have nothing and live on nothing. My first world problems are nothing.

Instead of looking at my life and thinking what I don’t have, like more money, a second Amazon Fire Stick or iPad, I’m going to thank God my deficit each pay is less than $100 and so far I haven’t missed any payments. I’m thankful for the blessings I have, even when it’s less than what I pictured for my life. If God’s plan is better than anything I can imagine, I’m sure that extends to my current financial situation.

Maybe the rest of my life will be paycheck to paycheck. Maybe I’ll never be financially comfortable. Still, I will trust God because of everything I have and everything He’s done.

*I heard these statistics in church and I think that was the number but I was too lazy too look it up. The point remains even if my number is a little off.