Money. It’s one of those things everyone talks about, but no one talks about. Do you know what I mean? Despite everyone having to deal with it, we handle the topic delicately—and rightly so. There’s nothing more unflattering than listening to someone brag about how much money they have, and we’ve all cringed at that one friend who is always starting a GoFundMe for herself. Most of the time, it’s best to keep money matters private.
However, in ignoring the topic completely, something happens—we begin to paint an unrealistic picture of what “normal” looks like. We make assumptions about those around us and compare ourselves to our peers without understanding their financial reality (or our own). We rack up debt trying to impress people who aren’t even paying attention. We live in constant fear of missing out. And for Christians, we completely separate our financial lives from our spiritual lives, something that is unimaginable if you read the words of Jesus on the topic.
For the past six months, we’ve been forced to address our relationship with money as well as how we talk about it with other people. We’ve been paying both rent and a mortgage after a quick move and a slow home sale, and it’s caused a tectonic shift in our lifestyle.
“Let’s go out Friday!”
Do we make up an excuse, or should we be honest and tell them we don’t have any more money in our eating out budget this month?
In the past, we’d probably just borrow the money from another area of the budget and go out anyway. Somewhere along the way, we’d stopped doing a strict line-by-line budget and just got a “feel” for what we could afford. And we could usually afford most of the things we wanted to do. Sure, we had debt sitting around, but we were making the payments, and all was well. It was all very relaxed, unintentional and unfocused. We weren’t really saving, dreaming or planning for the future. Just trying to stay in the black.
But for the past six months, we’ve HAD to be intentional. There was no other option. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a tough season. But the beautiful thing about this time is it has forced us into the habit of creating a budget that tells every dollar where to go. This simple practice of setting some boundaries on our spending has allowed us to make it through this season without incurring any additional debt or going without necessities. We’ve even gotten to go out on a couple of dates and purchased Christmas gifts for our family. Month by month, our habits have begun to change and our definitions of wants and needs have shifted. We’re simply satisfied with less.
This experience in conjunction with finally settling into a church and thinking more about the ways we want our spiritual lives to bleed into our physical lives caused us to ask some tough questions as this season comes to a close (our house is under contract! 🤩).
🔹 Did our lifestyle before—so centered on our pleasures and appetites at the expense of simplicity and generosity—reflect what we believe to be true of God?
🔹 Were we using this one life we have and the resources we’ve been given to create peace in our home, authentic community and a hopeful future for our kids, or were we just living in the moment?
🔹 Were we living honestly, or were we creating a façade to make people think a certain way about us?
🔹 Did we have authentic friendships with anyone outside our income bracket?
🔹 Did we have enough margin to practice generosity?
I knew immediately when we began asking these questions that what we’d been doing before this hardship didn’t line up with our vision of family, community, generosity or spirituality.
That realization and its implications for the next few years of our lives put me in a bad mood. 😑 I didn’t know how to enjoy life or make friends without restaurants and coffee shops and charcuterie boards. I couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t include living in a cute house in a cute part of town. I deserved those little things because I’m not interested in clothes or fancy furniture or cars. Those are the things that are frivolous! Don’t ask me to sacrifice my harmless little pleasures. There has to be another way.
Well, there is another way. We can see money as a means to an end rather than the end itself. Money can be a beautiful gift if we manage it well, speak about it honestly and learn to be content with or without it. For our family, we’ve decided this means living below our means, making wise decisions that minimize financial stress and getting creative about how we spend time with people.
So why in the world am I sharing this with you when we all agree talking about money is a bit tacky? I wrote and rewrote this essay about six times over the span of several weeks because it gives me major heebie-jeebies to talk about this. At the end of the day, this essay is a tiny act of repentance and a reminder of God’s grace the past six months as we finally say goodbye to our home.
I’m also sharing because I want to help normalize the idea that we all go through seasons where we choose to make tough financial decisions that go against the grain. Too often, we feel like we’re the only ones struggling or trying to do something different. That unrealistic picture of “normal” makes us feel trapped. Our houses have to look a certain way. We have to live a particular lifestyle. We have to have what everyone else has, or they’ll… ? They’ll what?! I’m not sure, but I feel it, too. It’s really OK to dip out of the rat race.
In addition, I think being honest about our finances can deepen our relationships with others. What I’ve found is when we are real with folks about our financial limitations, others are more often than not relieved to find someone who they can be honest with as well. It becomes easier for them to say, “Hey, we want to hang out, but we’re trying to save money this month, so can we do burgers at our house instead of going to that restaurant? You wanna bring the beans?”
That kind of transparency allows us to open our homes, invite people in and reveal who we really are. When we’re no longer concerned with keeping up with the Joneses, everyone can just relax.
😍 We can move past small talk about where we purchased things in our home.
😍 We can stop focusing on that girl’s clothes and start admiring how hilarious she is.
😍 We can become comfortable with each other’s homes, knowing where the cups are kept and being unafraid to jump in and help in the kitchen.
😍 We can be content with drip-brew coffee and waffles while our kids play on the floor instead of wrangling nap-ready toddlers who don’t want to sit in a highchair one more minute.
😍 And maybe one day, we can let go of our own insecurities and feel fully loved, fully accepted and fully known.
These little moments that aren’t centered around spending money or doing expensive, Insta-worthy activities can ultimately become the most beautiful, memorable parts of our lives if we’re willing to open ourselves up to experiencing them.
I’m writing this to tell you it’s OK if your life isn’t shiny. Mine is not, and I’m learning that shiny isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I am so looking forward to this next season of our lives, and I’m eternally grateful for the lessons we’ve gleaned from the one we are exiting. Some of God’s greatest gifts are the hardships we pray for him to fix.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, just know—you’re not alone. You’re welcome at my house for drip-brew and waffles anytime. ☕️