Friday, August 17, 2012

And These Thy Gifts

Earlier this week, I spoke with a financial planner with no real idea of why I was meeting with him. I had a couple hunches, though, to why my friend recommended me to him:
1) I'm getting married;
2) my betrothed is still in school;
3) I will be the only bread winner for the first half of our first year;
4) Our finances and budgeting are going to have to adjust over marriage, moving and any other life changing events that start to come our way.
Where does one even begin??

Fortunately, it begins now, and it begins with honesty.

Look at your finances. Even if you feel crunched under the amount of debt in your life, it isn't unconquerable. In the short term, perhaps, but not in the long, if you are willing to cut down and save.

More importantly, however, finances are more than just a save-here, spend-there mentality. Finances correlate to faith, and not in the Prosperity = God Loves You kind of way. Rather, it begins with an acknowledgement that we owe everything to God. Not our rent check, but our lives, and one way we can show gratitude for the gifts he has shared with us is to give back to the Church. This is called tithing.


The recommended amount one tithes is 10 percent of your income. How you tithe, however, is up to you. For instance, most of my tithing goes into supporting Catholic organizations. I help sponsor my friend Gina in FOCUS (since they have to raise their own salary) and give to the Dominican sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor. I also give directly to the Church.

10 percent is actually quite a small chunk of change in one's budget, especially since we're playing the honesty card and realize that one's finances tend to be spent more at or the coffee shop than such a good cause of supporting our Church.

If money is quite tight, another way to give to the Church is through one's time and volunteering at Catholic charities or within programs, like RCIA, being a Eucharistic minister, teaching little children, visiting the elderly and infirm, or even helping with the rectory's upkeep!

The point of tithing is not just offering up a sacrifice; it is combined with the genuine intention of giving thanks. When Mary and Joseph went to give an offering at the temple when Jesus was born, they gave a pair of doves. That was a very humble offering in comparison of what they could have made, but it was a noble one in the eyes of God.

Savings and Debt

The best advice I've heard of this subject came from my aforementioned friend (the one who recommended me to see the financial planner, and works for a big finance company himself). He told me to just cut out the amount you want to save and need to pay right from my budget and pretend it's not there to spend.

This should happen every month to make it into a habit. I repeat: every single month, put those dolla-dolla bills into savings!

Savings does not need to happen in large chunks. Remember piggy banks? Never a bad mentality. Collect your loose coins and dollars and tuck them away for later. The excitement of finding $20 in your pocket will be nothing compared with the realization that you have hundreds of dollars in loose change!

So, to reiterate: X - Y = Z

I made X amount, subtract Y (monthly savings + monthly debt payment) and Z is what I have left over. This equation can (and will!) be made more complicated with more and varied payments, like car payments or rent or food. This means we should talk budget.


I've made a lot of these. They never seem to pan out the way I mean them too, but either way, they are an absolute necessity. A budget is a plan and a guide. Your savings and checking accounts are part of that budget. Your debt is part of that budget. Your semi-annual car payments and oil changes every 3,000 miles are part of the budget.

Budgets say, You can't plan for everything but you can try, and maybe take the edge off when things cost more. This in an invaluable and essential part of having financial savvy. Those numbers don't lie either: find out how much you're really making (after taxes), how much you're spending, and what's left.

Money Matters

You don't have to be making the big bucks to make smart money decisions, nor do you need to go to a financial planner (although it's not a bad idea - and not an expensive one, either!). You absolutely do, however, need to be honest with yourself.

In the film Yours, Mine and Ours, Lucille Ball has 8 kids and Henry Fonda has 10 kids. Then they get married. (That's right, 18 kids.) One of my favorite scenes from the movie is when they are at the grocery store, piling up food into carts and pulling them behind them while discussing each of them adopting the other's children. They didn't have the money and so Fonda made the symbolic and literal sacrifice of putting his beer back as a way to save money.

My parents and their greatest assets!
(Seriously, where have all the good movies gone?!)

Money can be a good thing, although it is not a good unto itself. Money is for spending - but how you decide to do so is what makes a personal financially responsible and secure, not the size of your income. People all across the wealth spectrum are making great and crummy money decisions. You don't want to pay for health services but you want a new pair of shoes and the latest album? Priorities are all askew, yet finances need to be one of them - especially in this age of financial uncertainty.

In tithing, we give back to God, from whom all blessings flow. In savings, we prepare for sun and stormy times ahead. In paying off debt, we honor another's trust. There may be a system (how to pay, when to pay, who pays), but to have any of the above is a gift. Personal financial responsibility helps society just as much as giving unto other can do.

How do you make financial decisions?


  1. is the best at making it easy to track where you are in discretionary spending.

    Also if you get a bank with free accounts it's great for stashing money away to make it off limits. It's as easy as a few clicks online and I've got a new account with ING Direct.

  2. I LOVE YOURS, MINE, AND OURS!!! Such a great movie!!!!

    When I was unemployed/temping/underemployed, I made a VERY strict budget of my monthly expenses in Excel - to make me stick to it, I put in every purchase I made from every receipt - even cash. It made me accountable to myself, and my spending ended up being way down. Unfortunately, that stopped when I got a new job and was making a lot more money, but I'm hoping to get motivated to switch back to that because I want to plan to put way more towards my monthly loan payments (like pay them off in 2 years instead of 10... yipes!).