What is the #1 way to save money, you ask? It is a strong accountability system with your spouse.
Now some of you may already have this, or think you do, but I want to paint a picture of what strong accountability looks like and how it is the only real way to keep your money from slipping through cracks.
When I got married about 2.5 years ago, I thought I was a frugal person. I shopped (mostly) second-hand, and I never wore any expensive brands. I was careful to find bargains and not to spend too much at the grocery store. Sure, I still slipped in a nail polish here, or a magazine there. A sweater from target that I saw and justified buying because I hadn't bought any clothes in a few weeks. I was society's version of frugal.
Now imagine my surprise when my sweet, wonderful husband confronted me (kindly) about my spending too much money. What do you mean?! I am frugal!
Yep, I was defensive and I thought my husband's idea of frugality was stifling. Didn't he want to have fun and live life a little too?
It was about this time that we decided to do the Jim Sammons Financial Freedom Seminar. We bought the dvd series and book, and proceeded to watch it. We quickly realized some of our erring ways, and I had to eat a big piece of humble pie when I realized I had gotten to a place where I thought I deserved things. I deserved to be able to buy a new nailpolish color, or I deserved to be able to buy a cute new scarf when I felt like it. I thought that since I worked hard, I deserved material rewards. I realized my sense of entitlement was crazy out of control, and it was really coming between me and my husband.
I also realized that while God does promise to provide for our needs, our needs do not include nail polish and new scarves in every color. Our needs are very simple: food, water, clothing, shelter. Anything outside of that is a want, not a need. Wow was this humbling, as I realized I was not a frugal person, but a materialistic person.
It was through this seminar that we also decided to live debt free. This was a difficult decision, especially considering we are the only ones in our families to make such a decision. Debt-free living is not something our society espouses at all. So all of a sudden we had a mountain of debt to get out of, and if we ever wanted a house, we needed to save for it.
Our financial seminar recommended keeping a thorough budget recording system, where we write down and keep track of every expense. We decided to use Budgetsimple.com, and began recording every single day the big and small purchases we were making. My husband took over this responsibility, as I think we both didn't trust that I would be completely honest with my spending if I kept track of it. We both also set up alerts on our phones so we get text messages if any purchases over $20 come out of our account.
Very quickly, I realized that my ways had to change. I had to really begin to make sacrifices to save. This was difficult, and I quickly realized that I had allowed myself to be influenced too much by friends and advertisements that told me I needed things in order to be happy.
While my friends had a new pair of shoes every month, I all of a sudden had to defend every purchase I was making, not just to myself, but to my husband, and God. One of the foundational reasons we choose to live debt-free is because we believe that God is our provider, and we need to be wise with his provisions. We also need to accept that there will be times of want and times of plenty. With that in mind, it all of a sudden became important that every penny I spent with God's money was well-spent. I needed to begin protecting myself from the influences I had allowed into my life that were driving me to think I needed things.
But just to make sure we still "live a little", my husband and I are each allowed $20 to spend on non-essentials per month (it used to be $50, but we recently lowered it). That $20 goes towards ANYTHING not written into the budget, whether it's eating out, buying nailpolish, etc.
So, this is where the accountability really comes in. Earlier this week I went to the store to buy a cardigan to wear with my dress for a wedding I am going to this weekend. I went to the thrift store and found a great cardigan for $12 (it's a higher-end thrift store). I made my way to the cash register and all of a sudden stopped. In my busy-ness I had forgotten to check with my husband on this purchase, and I had already spent my $20 for the month.
This is where our strong accountability system kicks into place. Because my husband and I are working as a team to realize our debt-free goals, it would be terribly irresponsible for me to break his trust and spend money outside of what I am allowed without speaking with him first. If I go ahead and spend the $12 anyway, my husband will see it when he checks our bank account every day, and he will ask me what happened. To spend that money without checking with him would be a violation of his trust in me to be his partner. It would also be undermining his position as head of our household.
So I pulled out my phone and called him at work, and he gave me permission to purchase the cardigan. Afterwords, he texted me that he was very happy I called and asked first if he was ok with the purchase.
|My new cardigan goes perfectly with my modest dress|
It might seem a little silly to call your spouse and ask to spend a few extra dollars. It would seem so much easier to hide a new nail polish in the grocery bill. But my husband and I are partners, and we trust each other. That trust is so valuable, and we need to be accountable to each other in how we spend the resources God has given us.
One of my favorite quotes is "you lose your money in pennies". It is true that those little indulgences here and there add up over time, and they can undermine the goals you and your spouse have set. But more importantly, they can undermine your relationship with your spouse and God.