Friday, November 21, 2008

Bank Error (not) In Your Favor

We learned something in the young fires of adversity: God always provides!

I was one of those guys who squeezed four years of college into ten. Let me clarify... I went to school for three years and mostly goofed around. Then we got married, I worked in a local church -- during which time our son was born -- and I felt God wanted me to become a pastor. Soooo, after a four-year hiatus, I went back to college as a serious student. Taking classes as much as possible while I held down a full-time job, I graduated after three more years.

It was during that time that Cathy got pregnant with twins and we didn't have health insurance. To say that money was tight was understatement.

I'll never forget the conversation as we drove home one afternoon. Cathy said she needed us to stop and pick up a few groceries. I explained that we had no money. We kept a minimum balance of $5 in our checking account and we were down to that. She told me that we couldn't do without a few very basic necessities and that our son's piggy bank contained a little bit of change we could "borrow" until payday.

We headed home, took the money from the piggy bank and drove to the grocery store.

Arriving back at our house, frugal supplies in tow, we picked up our mail. Opening it, we found a nice card from one of Cathy's aunts. It said, "We remember how tight things got sometimes when your Uncle Don was in seminary. We thought you might need this." It contained a check for $20. Other than our wedding, that may have been the only time we heard from them. That card and money was such a message of hope! (AND that's only one of the times that we received unexpected financial help during one year of our own personal recession.)

Fast forward to yesterday. I was standing in my office talking to someone about an accounting error that is costing me some dollars. We had already discovered the mistake and had taken steps to correct it right away. I found out this week that it will cost more than we originally thought and yesterday afternoon I was being told that it might still be more than I understood in the morning.

Literally in the middle of that conversation, my cell phone rang. I had picked up my car following an $800 repair job just an hour before. My mechanic was now calling to tell me that Cathy's car, which was in for a normal check-up, needs $1500 worth of work. This auto repairman has demonstrated integrity over the last 20 years or so. I know the work must be done and gave him the go ahead.

Just a moment or two later, my Blackberry buzzed, telling me I had an email. It was from a computer company that was sending me a rebate. The email said that, if I have received a check from them, don't cash it. It will bounce!

I went home a short time later, knowing that God is faithful, but feeling a little shell-shocked.

I told Cathy about it all and, when I finished she asked if she could tell me about her day. She went on to describe something that happened yesterday morning. She was able to buy some much needed quilting fabric [it's her addiction :o)] for a tiny fraction of the cost. Because she uses her hobby to make beautiful gifts for loved ones, she actually saved a bundle of future dollars.

As she told me what happened, tears were forming in my eyes.

You see, we have enough right now to take care of all these unexpected expenses. I was struggling because, just maybe it has been too easy lately to depend on my own resources to handle financial problems. My false security was being whittled away. Quilting material reminded me of words spoken by King David in the Psalm where this blog gets its name... The little that the righteous person has is better than the wealth of many wicked people.
(Psalm 37:16 GW)

These are difficult financial times. How are they affecting you?


beckiwithani said...

Our very-detailed budget is on Excel - I haven't found Quicken to have the flexibility I need.

I made the budget a couple of months ago, and it looked like we could put a nice sum in savings every month. After saving for my mostly-unpaid maternity leave nearly two years ago, and Donal changing jobs, we'd used up most of our savings.

But during the last couple of months, we have continually had to take money OUT of savings to pay normal bills. I couldn't figure out where our money was going. We do live a middle-class lifestyle, but we're pretty careful.

I finally got a chance to sit down with the budget again for a few hours, with the last month of bank statements printed out in front of me. When I saw Donal's weekly paychecks in the statements, it hit me -- I had looked at the wrong number when making the original budget, and had put in his salary as about $150 per paycheck TOO high. With him getting paid weekly, this was $600-750 per month extra that I'd budgeted as coming in.

Thankfully, that was still less than we had budgeted to put in savings. But we'll be able save less than half of what we thought we would this year, even with some more belt-tightening that we did in the budget after realizing my huge error. Such a disappointment. I am just reminding myself that we're lucky to be able to save at all, considering the number of people who live paycheck-to-paycheck (sometimes from poor budgeting skills, but often because of economic realities ... or a combination of the two.)

Our big sacrifice? We are not comfortable, in the current climate, having another kid until we have a large(ish) cash reserve in the bank. Last time it was $11-12K. We want at least that next time, considering how tough things are in the country right now.

So we wait. Our future child will benefit from the wait, and luckily we're enjoying Molly so much that neither of us has "baby fever" right now. But it is hard to know that, even if we do get the urge, we would really not be wise to satisfy it.

(I know this sounds self-righteous ... but I really think the families in this country would be stronger, and the country would be a better place, if more Americans would make this sacrifice, waiting till they're economically ready before having children. And, of course, ready from a maturity point of view as well.)

Cathy said...

A comment to Becki - saving for a child is great, but I just can't resist telling you that,uh...if we had waited until we'd saved $11-12K before we had you and your sister or your brother, (or if we'd waited until we saved 2K) well, just to put it gently, you would have never been!

C. Beth said...

Since Chickie was born I'd continued to make occasional money in real estate. But this year has been different. The few calls I have gotten from people wanting my help, I've said no because the timing was always such that it didn't work. One referral I sent looks like it's working out, so I'll end up with a little under $400 next week in a referral fee--and that will probably be my only real estate income this year. Going from making several thousand last year to almost nothing this year has been an adjustment for us.

Now, to be honest, we still live more than comfortably and have been blessed to be able to save money. So I know we are in much, much better shape than most Americans and I am not going to try to sound like some sort of martyr--we are incredibly blessed! But without having my income (and with things like gasoline, utilities, and groceries costing more this year), we've just recently been realizing we were spending according to old habits, and those need to change. So we're just trying to be more conscious--like the Target trip I mentioned the other day. Which reminds me, I still have a stack of stuff--now adding up to $27 or so--that needs to be returned.

I recognize that our ability for me to stay home while still living very comfortably is rare in America these days. I am incredibly grateful, since being home with my kids is what I want (though I also enjoy occasionally working a bit.) My desire is that God would give us hearts of true generosity. Maybe He'll use us to be the blessing like your aunt and uncle were to you, Dad.

God is so good. I love hearing stories of His provision. Thanks, Dad.

Sam said...

Becki, one of the things I'm very proud of you and Donal for is how careful you are to manage money. You set your priorities and understand what it means to go without things you really don't need. You drove an old vehicle far longer than many people would have put up with it, then made a very careful decision when purchasing your current one.

I also enjoy your insights and concern for the poor. Thanks for reminding us.

Sam said...

Beth, I love how you take the time to look deeper than the surface in your own life. I have told several people about your "taking things back to Target" story and remembered it when I was in our Target yesterday.

Our children all live with a sense of gratitude for their blessings and you are blessings to us.


beckiwithani said...

Spoken like a true grandmother who wants another grandchild, Mom ... :)

We are living in a city and a time, however, where it would be literally impossible for one of us to stay home, unless the other one got a very substantial (5-figure) pay raise or a second job ... OR unless we went on public assistance, which is not an option in our minds. (And we both love our jobs and wouldn't want to stay home, anyway.) That makes the whole equation different, when it comes to taking time off to have a child.

In addition, we like the flexibility of waiting so that we are comfortable, not living on our last nickel, when we have the second one! We are both much more at peace fulfilling our goals/dreams on a deliberate schedule ... rather than fulfilling them now, but having the uncertainty that comes from the type of extreme economic tightness that Dad described in his post.

I'm glad you guys were willing to live on that uncertain shoestring for awhile, though ... because otherwise I wouldn't be able to be typing this and defending my own decisions, 31 years later. :)

Sandra said...

Hubby and I didn't "marry well." That is to say, we each should have married a money-smart mate! So, by default, I "managed" our money and we lived hand to mouth most of our adult lives, and frequently money was really tight, even though we both had good jobs. But we did do a couple things right -- we did tithe and we did pray about our finances regularly -- I specifically prayed over the checkbook whenever I sat down to write checks, that God would give me wisdom in managing our money.

But about 15 years ago we "woke up" and started putting money away for retirement, and it means that when we retired, we actually had a nest egg. That is so amazing to me that we arrived "here" comfortable and with a nest egg no less! So, when we get the statement now re. our investments, we are always shocked at how much they've lost, but we always remind each other that it is only by the grace of God and His direction that we have it at all, so ...

Today, this day, our needs are met. And tomorrow? We rest in the knowledge that God will take care of tomorrow, just like He took care of us in our young, money-clueless years.

J Trout said...

Sounds like government contract cuts may affect our work load next year a little, other than that so far we've not felt a big change yet. Our work is centered around helping people meet their state compliance requirements for drinking water (community wells, industrial water systems and such.) Since requirements for these systems are getting tougher all the time, I think our jobs are safe. We are self employed along with Bill's job at the county. I'm am thinking a lot about ways to eliminate debt, just need to put a plan in action.

C. Beth said...

Dad--I'm glad you remember the Target story--wish my memory was as good as yours, considering I forgot to bring that stuff with me when I went to Target yesterday.

Sam said...

Becki, I want you to have babies when you're ready. You know we've never wanted our kids to have kids so we can have grandkids. BTW, we can't wait to see Book Girl Molly on Monday!

Sandra, your testimony is moving and powerful. Because I have had liberty to move my retirement around, we haven't been hit as hard as many people, but thank you for the reminder that God is ultimately and always the provider.

J, I appreciate the comprehensive way you seem to look at things. I encourage you and your husband as you approach getting out of debt. Being that way is a huge help to Cathy and me as we weather this storm.