Tough times hit every family!
For most families, there never seems to be enough money to cover all the unexpected expenses that arise. When hard times come, it makes it even harder to make ends meet and deal with surprise financial blows.
As I have taught economics in high school and counseling couples having financial difficulties, I have come to this conclusion: the economic cycle affects families, too. Every family I know has times where income is growing moving into prosperity, as well as times of financial trials where income recesses. If you see this cycle of growth--prosperity--decline--recession--recovery. Think about it. Sam loses his job and times are really tough for awhile, even after God provides a new one. It takes about six months for the family to get back on their feet.
Can we make it through hard times and come out stronger in the end?
Having had the privilege of many years of financial hard times some short and some extending for years, our family has learned a few lessons along the way that make life easier. Would you like some financial wisdom for hard times?
Use Secret Weapons
Jesus made a promise in John 16 that in this world, troubles will come. Then He added, "Take Heart, I have Overcome the World!"
I see that verse shared in a greeting card or quoted in a song. Lalala--in this world you will have rough times, bad times, sad times....lalala.
Instead, we are almost shocked when something terrible happens. Here is reality: cars will break down, someone will break a bone, appliances will have to be replaced. There will be unexpected financial trials, so pray hard, invest in your heavenly bank account, and prepare ahead! Those are the three secret weapons for financial hard times.
Secret Weapon #1: See God as your Source, your Provider. Put Him first in your finances by tithing and giving offerings. There are many promises in Scripture that is we tithe and give generously, He will meet every need. Think of tithing, giving to the poor, and giving generously as making deposits into your Heavenly Bank Account. When you need to make a withdrawl, you will find a much bigger balance than you expected.
Secret Weapon #2: Jesus tells us to pray each day for Him to give us our daily bread. Pray for provision each day and especially pray for the Lord to meet every need. God loves to answer your prayers.
Secret Weapon #3: Prepare for Lean Times. Set aside a little bit of money each month to build a surplus for future needs. If you want to live debt-free, a large percentage of your income needs to go to savings for future needs like cars, tuition, car repair, medical, and vacations.
That reminds me of budgeting.
Have a Bare-Bones Budget Plan
Mike and I went out to lunch to discuss our budget. We were so serious and business-like that the waitress asked us if we wanted separate checks.
That made us crack up laughing. However, we are serious budget makers and we do sit down every few years to make a new budget. We make a regular budget and a "bare-bones budget." The "bare-bones budget" is only necessities. If financial trials come, we just slip into this budget and live frugally.
By living on a budget year by year, we are able to restrain economic vices such as greed and extravagance for the most part. It allows discipline to rule our spending, rather than those lovely thoughts of dinners out, new computers, and shopping binges. Our regular budget does allow us to go our occasionally and purchase things we want, but when income drops or huge expenses take their toll, we use our bare-bones budget. Though it's super-hard to live on our bare-bones budget, many times, we have had to do so.
When times are hard, we make presents instead of buying them. We make things from scratch instead of pre-packaged food. We try to limit our driving to save gas money.
Re-evaluate, Make Changes
When companies go through difficult times, they reevaluate their expenditures and make cuts. They find cheaper ways to do things. They work smarter.
Families can do the same things. You might cut cable, find a cheaper cell phone plan and get rid of your land line, or shop for clothing at a second-hand store.
Some of the changes we have made during our times of trial have been beneficial to our family. We have found less expensive insurance companies, cheaper ways to vacation, bargain stores, and better products to use at cheaper prices.
How about your family? Are there things you can get rid of? Buy cheaper? Substitute with other things?
When you go through hard times, you often have a time of readjustment when things get better. You have to take care of a lot of things you had to put off. So stay bare-bones until those things are taken care of. Don't just automatically add back the things you changed. Think about it. Pray about it. Often after a financial crisis, we are able to save more money because we have made wise changes and don't want to go back to the old way of doing things.
Teach Teens about Finances
Teach your teens about finances. Involve them in some of the decision-making if possible. Definitely involve them in the praying. Show them the old budget and the new bare-bones budget and explain why you are having to tighten your belt.
I created an economics course for my teens that includes financial management, including how the economic cycle affects households. Economics, Finances, and Business covers economics, finances, and how to start your own business.
I have taught this class to my own teens and several other times. It's a favorite!
We read living books which are much more interesting than textbooks.
We have hands-on projects like renting and furnishing your own apartment, starting your own business, playing the stock market game, and exploring careers.
I have found that you mention "economics" or "financial planning" and most folks want to get away. Why? They don't understand economics because it's been taught in a boring way. They hate financial planning because their finances are in such a mess.
I want to start my own teens on the right track. I want them to understand economics, know what the Bible says, manage their own money, and know how to start their own business if they ever want or need to.
If you are interested in Economics, Finances, and Business, you can learn more here. You can purchase this book in print at Amazon. The E-book is available at PayHip and Currclick. There is also an Answer Key.
My prayer is that you would walk in God's financial blessing so you can be a blessing to others.