Have you ever wondered what would be the perfect gift for my future spouse? Consider this idea: financial freedom! Whether getting completely out of debt and building your savings, or working towards that end, giving your future husband or wife the gift of financial freedom is priceless. Stuff will rust or get old, but freedom is a new gift every day.
Before we move forward, let us talk about what financial freedom is not. Financial freedom is not:
- Saving every penny and dime and not enjoying life.
- Sacrificing everyday items which you can easily afford (e.g., electricity, heat, air conditioning, food, needed clothing, toiletries, etc.).
- Hoarding unusable items.
- Interrogating your family members about their spending.
- Spending foolishly even if you “have enough.”
- Enabling others to make poor choices.
- Living off parents, relatives, friends, or romantic partners.
It is possible for someone with a billion dollars to be financially bound and someone with $1,000 in the bank to feel financially free. We should seek to make wise choices for ourselves and our families; but, holding “our” money with an open hand and saying, “Lord, all I have is from you. Please do Your will in my finances.”
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)
More Money Than Love?
In the early years of our marriage, when Eric and I started listening to Dave Ramsey’s financial advice, I was surprised to learn there are more verses in the Bible about money than love. Who would have ever guessed that? Much of the American Christian culture is quick to talk about loving our neighbors, but also quick to encourage consumer debt. Our Father has much to say about finances, and managing our money wisely takes on a new meaning when we realize every dime of our money is actually God’s money (cf. Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 10:14, Job 41:11, I Timothy 6:6-7).
The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2, ESV)
For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. (Psalm 50:10-12, ESV)
There is freedom in realizing everything I own belongs to my Father. It separates me from the notion that I must feverishly gain wealth for security, but it also reminds me to be wise with what I have because God entrusted it to me.
A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 28:20, ESV)
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36, ESV)
Gaining Financial Freedom
Financial freedom might look different from person to person, but below are a few tips we recommend for anyone who is actively preparing to get married. (And you do not have to be in a relationship to actively prepare for marriage in this area.)
- Sacrifice first, enjoy second. While you are young and enjoying the newness of your love story, make some financial sacrifices. Young couples and newlyweds do not need much to be deliriously happy. ~smile~ Find creative ways to spend time together, to eat healthy, and to dress. Live on less than you make and save the balance. Pay off debt. Plan a dream vacation and let that dream light a fire beneath you to save toward it. Imagine your future-self, thanking you for making his or her success and comfort possible.
- Drown out the well-meaning voices. It seems as if young couples come with notes attached to their foreheads which read, “No, really – please give us your opinions about how we should spend our money.” Some will tell you that you must spend money to make money. Others will say paying rent is just throwing money away. Occasionally, you might even hear the sentiment that you do not make enough money to tithe. Wait until you are more financially secure to give to your church. You can thank them for their advice or just listen in silence, but you do not have to follow it. Find people you admire who radiate financial wisdom and ask for their ideas. Read what God says about managing money and listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. If you feel uneasy about a financial decision, take note, pray, seek counsel, and wait until you have peace.
- Marry someone with similar financial goals. Meet Joe and Leigh. Joe is living on $3.74 until his next payday. Leigh is in school and works as many hours as she can at her brother-in-law’s restaurant. They have gotten used to dollar burger date nights and free local attractions. The difference is Leigh loves her life the way it is. She wants to finish school for the accomplishment, but she mainly wants to work in the restaurant, get married, and then come home to raise her children. Once her children are older, she plans to get a low-stress job and enjoy her life with her husband. Joe, however, has big plans. These plans include climbing the corporate ladder, living in a large city, and making his first million by the time he is thirty. He resents that he cannot afford to take Leigh to nice dinners and fancy shows. Right now, they are in a similar phase, but in a few years (if not sooner) someone is going to have to change his or her plan if they stay together. Either Leigh will have to leave the lifestyle she wants to chase money she does not want. Or, Joe will have to settle for staying in a small town and forgoing the big city career he craves. It is not innately wrong for Joe to want to earn significant money or for Leigh to want a quiet, small town life; but, if they get married, one or both will always feel stifled and bound. One aspect of financial freedom is having the freedom to follow your desired financial path at your desired pace.
- Make it difficult to fight about money. Money fights are so common among couples and they suck the joy out of the room. If you have them often enough, they suck the joy out of life. It is not realistic to think you and your future spouse will never argue about money, but you can take steps to mitigate those occurrences. Lay your cards on the table. Talk about your finances. Once you are married, have one, joint account (in total, with no personal side accounts). Budget a little fun money for each person. Discuss large purchases. Be open. Be honest. Be calm. Be realistic. Have scheduled meetings to discuss the next month’s budget. Anticipate arguments and cut them off at the pass. Eric and I do have money arguments at times; but, everything considered, we are largely on the same page – and being on the same page with our money has made our lives so much more pleasant.
- Collect memories, not things. Though this saying is starting to feel cliché, it resonates with me so much. There are a few tangible items in my life which I adore, but mostly because of the relationships they represent. All in all, when people are gone, it is the memories we treasure. It does not cost much to make sweet memories with the ones you love. Occasionally, splurge and do something expensive; but, as a way of life, focus on the togetherness and not as much on the stuff. The happiest people tend to have quality relationships. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21, ESV)
- Cool it with the credit. The wealthiest people in America recommend getting out of debt and staying out of debt. It is the “American way” to go into debt to build wealth, but it often creates a deep, (seemingly) inescapable hole. Maybe it is considered uncool to pay with cash or live below your means, but it is also uncool to lose sleep at night because you do not know how you are going to make your payments. Most of the time, you do not need “it”… whatever “it” is. My sister-in-law and I wander around stores, picking up pretty merchandise, and then immediately chanting, “I don’t need this.” Visualizing all the clutter in my house helps me walk away from impulse buys.
- Start at the end. When I was a child, I read a quote which said (roughly translated) “We spend our health gaining wealth, and then we spend our wealth desperately trying to regain our health.” When we are young, grabbing those dollars seems like such a priority, and it is in a way. We do need to eat, support our families, and put our God given talents to good use, but sometimes that drive to survive turns into a drive to “have it all.” The question becomes how much money is enough money to be enough money? While planning your finances and work trajectory, skip ahead to the end and take a look. You are retired. It is a Saturday afternoon in October. You look around your home, you look outside your back window, and you check your phone. What do you see? Is the way you are living your life now aiming towards that end? If not, what changes do you need to make it to your priorities?
When Eric and I got married, we had a new mortgage, a car payment, and we felt guilty eating out because what if we should have used that money for other bills?!? Then, shortly after our journey began, Eric began listening to Dave Ramsey and enthusiastically introduced Ramsey’s financial concepts to me. From there, we worked hard, ate out less, and saved. Before long, we were out of consumer debt and boy was that an incredible feeling.
Did we ever want to abandon the budget and live however we wanted? I did! Some days I still just want to buy what I want without thinking about it, but I know the future stress of that mindset is not worth the temporary fun. Financial freedom is worth some sacrifices.
Freedom is not free, but it is worth it.
How are your finances currently? Are you on a good path? Do you need to tighten up a little bit and save? Are you struggling to get on board with a spending plan? Are you concerned living on a budget will cause you to feel more bound than free? If so, you have millions who understand.
Still, we encourage you to look ahead to next year, ten years from now, and forty years from now. How different might your future look if you start working towards financial freedom now?
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (I Timothy 6:17-20, ESV)
Keep breaking free!
Are you currently experiencing financial freedom?