Money is such an uneasy and uncomfortable reality of everyone's life. Matt and I both knew the importance of finances in a marriage, so we decided to take Crown Financial classes through our church during our engagement.
It was a great experience. We were one of seven couples, and the youngest-just engaged and seeking any knowledge we could gather to help create a solid foundation for our marriage. We grew a lot. We learned a lot and we truly walked away having a greater understanding of money than ever before.
We learned that we are stewards of our money. We have been given custody over the 'wealth' we have, and it's our job to do God's will with our earnings. Wow. What a thought changer. For as long as Matt and I have been able to work, we have. We each have worked hard knowing that doing so would hold our pay-off and result in our money to decided what we wanted to do with it.
But wait... it's not our money. We have been called to do several things with the money we are blessed with. We are to entrust our money to Him- hand over ownership. We are to tithe “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). We are to trust in God's desires for the use of the money. We are to pray. We are to acknowledge desires vs. wants . We are to think of others. We are to be charitable “Do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). We are to never give money any more worth than it's worldly value.
This is tough stuff. Money has the ability to possess so much control over our lives and we often too easily let it do so.
God makes it clear than He does not use money to make us worry “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life (Matthew 6:25). It is not His desire for us to be anxious over money. Imagine not worrying about money, that would be an amazing feeling (clearly I'm still working on that). God also does not use money to give us large ego's or cultivate greed in us “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints” (Ephesians 5:3). God's intentions of money is to only build up the Kingdom of God during our time on earth.
When money is the core of many sinful acts in this world, it's really hard to imagine the ability to do good with something that is often mistreated. But I think Matt and I now understand that only good can come from the proper God intended use of the money we have been blessed with. But this takes work. Constant decision making, constant prayer and constant desire to do what's right, even when it can be so very scary.
Matt and I have worked hard to be financially stable. We set ground rules for even becoming engaged. Engagement would not happen if either of us carried any debt other than college loans. Once engaged saving became a huge priority. We have only purchased cars with cash. We never carry a balance on our credit cards and we never buy without knowing for sure that we have the money to cover the purchase. We both recognize that we have had privileged lives and we really don't desire to mistreat the financial situation we have been blessed with thus far. So it is one of our greatest desires to be financially responsible in every decision.
If only it was easy to be poor.
(Here I will mention that I am very aware that my rant about money hardly compares to those struggling to even feed their families or keep a house over their heads. I, in no way want to belittle or give the impression that we are better than those who are much worse off than anything I have ever known. We have all been dealt different hands, and I understand that not all have had the opportunities that Matt and I have. I have made the decision to post about God and money because I desire to my absolute best in doing biblically what is right and sharing my struggle in doing so.)
As many of you know, Matt and I have decided to pursue graduate work at this point in our lives. This desired step for our future did not come easy and continues to have it's challenges. We are four hours from either family. We are currently living off his stipend of around a thousand dollars a month. Because of my health issues back in December, I stepped away from work to get medical attention and have yet to find a new paying job to help with the income. We never expected to be in this financial situation. Prior to moving to southern Ohio we had worked very hard to save for this graduate school experience... and have been able to survive. But it's not easy and money is always on the brain. Never have we had to think about our budget as much as we do now. We have managed to remain debt free other than a few medical bills... and I'm constantly amazed that we have been able to do so. To say the least... we have definitely been putting our trust in God for how our money can be stretched each month. And so far--so good. Praise the Lord.
But now on to what got me to write a post all about money:
Yesterday while looking at our Verizon bill, we discovered that over the past three months we have paid some pretty crazy high cell phone bills. Now we both have 'dumb' phones and have consciously made the decision to be wise with our money and not get sucked into the smart phone craze. (Though I look forward to one day having one, now would have been a really unwise time to waste that sort of money.) So back in December when our plans were up, we hunted for the perfect 'dumb' phone or as they call it a "basic" cell phone. We did not see any that we liked in-store or even on Verizon online. I had gotten word about "penny phones" (with a two year renewal contract you could purchase the phone for only a penny. deal!) that could be purchased through Amazon Wireless.
My first thought was this has to be too good to be true (always go with your gut). I did a little more investigating and found that it seemed to be an okay offer. Matt and I both proceeded to purchase our phones through Amazon and never really looked back. Over the next few months we paid our bills by going online and clicking "pay". Matt does our finances and assumed that some of our higher bills were just two months clumped together, thinking he had forgotten to pay the month before. Turns out in renewing our contract through Amazon they were not able to offer us our same texting plan as before. Even though when agreeing to this online purchase I clicked the box that said "keep existing plan". They failed to mention that if the promotion was not currently being offered by Verizon it would then 'fall' off our new plan. And that's exactly what happened. We formerly had unlimited texting but through the renewal it didn't exist. This resulted in hundreds of dollars in overage charges. (I live far from my mama and we spend a lot of time texting :).)
So what does this have to do with my initial money rant? Well you see, we were foolish. We were leered into an offer than turned out to be plan old bad. We believe this Amazon offer is probably a good deal for others, but because of our existing plan, we got pretty screwed over by it.
The worst part about this money fiasco is that both Matt and I failed to be stewards of our money. We were trying to be so responsible with purchasing a cheap phone and keeping our contract basic that we forgot to read the fine print. And once our bills started to come Matt was not taking the time to look in detail at what was happening nor was I double checking.
I felt so foolish and silly and frustrated that my stupid texting could cost us so much darn money. Considering how much we had spent and still owed for the most recent months' bill we could have been enjoying the smart phones that we "wisely" chose not to buy.
But this was our learning lesson. Our discovery in the world of unfriendly-too-good-to-be-true-offers.
But the story does have a happy ending. Matt and I along, with my mom, were praying for some sort of resolution when Matt called Verizon customer service. Matt placed his first call last night, and though he got an extremely friendly customer service fellow, he was not able to help us. I cried. Yes I did. I was so upset that we had wasted so much money because of our own mistakes. So I went to bed praying that some sort of resolve would be made today. And it was! Matt called customer service again and the woman on the other end of the line totally understood our situation and has encountered several other stories just like ours. With out any nagging or begging she told us that she would credit our account for anything over our original plan and would also reinstate our mobile to mobile unlimited texting. Problems solved!
It's not often that a customer service call only takes about five minutes for someone looking to recoup almost 350 bucks. But for whatever reason we were blessed with graciousness and are on our way to being more aware of our bills and spending.
So this was my example of the continuous efforts of trying to be good stewards of our money. We have been blessed with the ability to make ends meet, but it's also our job to make sure that our human error is limited.
And though I spent the majority of yesterday and through the night worrying about money, how foolish of me to underestimate the miracles God has in store for even measly old us and our weak bank account .
We have a responsibility to be wise. And I want nothing more than to do what God desires of me in all nooks and crannies of my life. I wish nothing more than for my life and for Matt's life to be blessings to others and I hope that someday we can even bless others with the money that God entrusts to us.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7)