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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Managing Finances

THANKSGIVING: We had a wonderful Thanksgiving in the Seiler home. We had 17 people for dinner. My mom was staying with us from Monday through Friday of this week, so she got to be with us for Thanksgiving (my dad was hunting with my brother). I love having my mom here, and wish she was closer (she lives in Medford). We also had an elderly couple in the church for Thanksgiving - they lost all three of their sons, and have no nearby family. We had another family of four, friends of ours, and, of course, my husband's parents and sister. We just happened to have an inflatable in the driveway, so Pastor James blew that up for the kids, despite the drizzle. Hannah had just bought "Just Dance 3" for the Wii, so they played that some. The kids were very entertained. The men watched football, and when that was over, we watched "The Rockshow Comedy Tour," with Tim Hawkins. Laughter is one of God's greatest inventions! We are so blessed with family and friends and, even more than that, God's grace in our lives!


MANAGING FINANCES: I was raised in a very financially wise and conscientious family. My dad always managed the family's finances with precision, and his mom (my grandmother) was a very wise investor, saving up large amounts of money to pass on to her children and grandchildren, all the while, reusing paper plates and foil.
As soon as I got my first job as a teenager, I wanted to manage my own money. I even asked my parents to show me all the money they put out for me. I wanted to know how much it cost for me to live. What I could, I took over. I began to pay my insurance and gas and whatever I could afford.
I began working for the State of California when I was in my very early adulthood (like 19 or 20). I learned how to budget. I was a student of Larry Burkett, at the time, and his financial advice. He had a budget guide for single people that I used to create my own budget. Later, when Pastor James and I got married, I switched to his budget guide for young marrieds. We also took a Crown Financial Ministries course at our church. His advice was to budget on one income, especially if you plan to stay at home with your children. So we did. We tried very hard to live off of Pastor James's income alone. We didn't always make the wisest financial decisions in those early days, for sure. But after a year-and-a-half of marriage, when I became pregnant with our first child, we knew I would be leaving the State of California to stay at home with our daughter. It wasn't an enormous blow to our finances, as we'd set up our lives to live off of his income alone. We still had accumulated debt (house debt and car debt) that made it difficult, living paycheck to paycheck. We weren't as wise then as we are now about debt, and we are proud to live completely debt free now. But that took years to turn around because of some impulse decisions we made when we were first married.
Our budget has changed a lot over the years, but we still live by a budget. I have our budget typed up in Word so we can see the bottom line at any given time. Our budget has always been something we work on collectively as a couple. It includes all the categories that Crown Financial Concepts includes on their budget guide. We account for EVERYTHING that we know we will spend each month. Obviously, unexpected things come up, but to the best of our ability, we plan for them as well.
BUDGET: We live off the "10-10-80" principle. The first 10% of ALL our increase goes to the Lord who provides everything we have. It's His anyways. The next 10% goes into savings. We live off the remaining 80%. It hasn't always been easy, and if anything has suffered over the years, it's been our savings account. But we just try again the next month.
HOW WE WORK: We have always had just one account for the two of us (meaning, we don't have separate accounts). It's always been a joint effort by the two of us, despite the fact I do not provide any additional income. While my husband provides financial oversight in our family, and has the final say as to how we manage our finances, I've always managed the day-to-day. I put the budget into play. And as a stay-at-home mom, my mentality is that my contribution to our family's finances is how frugal I run the household. I am extremely frugal, and never stop learning and experimenting with how I can save a little here or there.
For as long as I can remember, I've used Quicken to manage our finances. Every Monday, I balance our account. I pull up our Quicken on my computer in one window, and pull up our bank account online in another window, and compare the two. Once I have checked off everything that has cleared and know what hasn't, I give Pastor James the bottom line: "Currently, we're at THIS, but THIS and THIS and THIS have yet to clear our account. When everything clears, we'll be at THIS. But don't forget THIS is still coming. In addition, we have THIS much in savings, so we're THIS far from our savings goal."
I send him something to that effect in an email, so he can visually see it. One thing I love about Quicken is that you can enter transactions that will happen in the future. For instance, if you want to make sure there will be enough money in your account for a trip you will be taking in two weeks, you go ahead and enter the trip into Quicken with a future date. Then you ensure that money doesn't get touched.
ANOTHER SMALL TIP: In our younger days, we frequently bounced checks. It was an awful way to live. One year, when we received a tax return, we decided to put a $500 cushion in our checking account. It's entered into Quicken like a year ago, but Quicken accounts for it being there. So we continue functioning and forget it exists, but we ensure that we will never bounce a check again. When Quicken says we're getting low, we know to make some adjustments. It doesn't matter what the bank says we have. We live off of what Quicken says we have.
PAYDAY: When payday arrives, I sit at my laptop and begin paying bills. I write our first check to the church. I can transfer money into savings right from my computer. I pay every bill I can online, and write checks for the one or two that I can't pay online. Because we only get paid once a month, I pay the bills all at once. I find that easier than keeping track of due dates. We have used the envelope system for many years. For items like groceries and gas and our little bit of play money each month, I take them out of the account in cash and give Pastor James whatever he needs for the month. We just find its easier to see the money go when we have the cash in our hands.When the money is gone, the money is gone.
CHILDREN AND SAVING: Our children each have their own savings account at the bank. For the older ones, I hand them their statement when it comes. I have given them the "shpeal" about the importance of saving, and how many years away from driving age they are, and that they'll want a car. Or how many years away from college or marriage they are, and how much those things cost. They understand they have a lot of saving to do. My children are required to give 10% of all their increase to the Lord and put a minimum of 20% in savings (they don't have living expenses, so this shouldn't be hard). A few of them choose to put more in savings, because they are goal-oriented in their personalities. I have another child who always seems to be saving for something they want to buy. Either way, it's important to me that they are giving to God and saving. They love to compare the amounts in their savings accounts when the statements arrive. For the little ones, I try to put money they receive into savings, as they don't need anything, and they don't know what to do with money they get.
TAX RETURNS AND BONUSES: In the spring, we get a large tax return and Pastor James receives a bonus from PG&E. We immediately tithe on all that increase. Then we save the rest. It's how we pay for irregular items that come up throughout the year, like sports, vacations, etc. Last year, we had to buy a new washer and dryer, and we used this money to help with that.
OUR MONEY PHILOSOPHY: A while ago, we took a DVD course by Jim Sammons, a financial adviser. One of the principles he taught that really stuck for us is this: God will provide for everything He wants you to have. If there is something you want, but don't have the money for, perhaps it is not God's will that you have it. If He wants you to have something, He will provide the means for you to obtain it, (and that DOESN'T include borrowing, as the Bible tells us not to borrow or get into debt). In addition, he taught that many of us gripe that we don't have enough to pay our bills. However, we have chosen to tie up much of our money in debt and other things that perhaps were not what God intended for us to do with our money. God says, "I provided all that you needed to meet your NEEDS, but you didn't spend it like you should have. You spent it on other things." So while we're blaming God for our tight finances, we actually brought it upon ourselves by disobedience.
With this thought in mind, we no longer worry about how we will pay for this or that. If God wants us to do something, He will give us the means to do it.
I think I've covered everything in regards to how the Seilers manage finances. If you have any questions, you can always comment below or email me privately at chris@marshillgalt.com. Happy saving!!!!

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