“I didn’t buy any junk food this week at the grocery store, kids.” The whines continue as each of my children rummage through the pantry and the refrigerator.
“What are we supposed to eat, Mom?” My eldest sarcastically asks.
“Come sit down with me at the table. I need to talk to all of you.” With heads hanging low, my three children shuffle towards the dining room table.
“Mom, you know I have to have a Chocolate Covered Five Layer Honey Roll every day when I get home from school.” This comment comes from my middle child, Vanessa.
Once all children are seated around our dining room table, I look them each in the eye and take a deep breath.
“Sara, hand me that notebook at the end of the table, please.” She slides me the spiral bound book. On the cover in my hand writing the word, Budget is neatly written.
“Mom, what’s a budget?” Sara asks.
“Well, that is what I want to discuss with each of you today. See, God has blessed me a good job that pays me money. The money I get from that job is what pays our bills. It is also used to buy our clothes, our food and your toys and games. It is important that we use what God has blessed us with in a way honors Him. A budget is a plan on how we will spend the money that I earn from my job.” I try to explain in a way that all three age groups will understand.
I open the notebook to this month’s budget and turn it out to face them. “Girls, if you look on this list you will see all the items we have to pay every month. At the bottom you will see the total of what they cost together. On the line below, you will see how much money I bring in from my job and on the line below that you will see what is called a variance.”
“What is a variance?” My youngest, Maria inquires.
“Well, a variance is how much money is left over after paying all the bills. It can also be how much we overspent. For instance, last month and the month before that we overspent. See?” I turn the notebook pages to show them the previous two months budget.
All three girls peer at the budget taking turns to read an entry. Their questions come fast about the water bill, the power bill and the mortgage. I explain how we must pay for our home and how it operates. Finally, Vanessa notices my entries for tithing.
“Mom, here it shows you pay each month for tithes. What is that?” She asks.
“Remember how I told you that God has blessed me with a good job? Well, we are supposed to give back to God a portion of what we earn because He has been so good to us. We must remember that everything we have is a blessing from God. We should always give back to God first.” I explain and pray my girls will understand.
I continue to explain that because we overspent the previous two months, I have to look for ways to cut back on our expenses. Cutting out the junk food from our grocery bill is one way we can save money and eat healthier.
I notice the visage of each child is beginning to soften. They are nodding and smiling and coming up with their own ideas of saving money.
“Who wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” I ask.
All hands shoot up in the air. As I make their sandwiches, I listen to the excitement in their voices as they plan next month’s budget. Occasionally I intervene to explain about fixed costs and they listen and move on to the next line. Silently I thank God for all that we have. I also thank Him for giving me the right words to explain a budget to my children. I admit my financial life has been a mess but now I feel wiser. Listening to my children discuss our finances in such a positive way gives me encouragement that they will not have to struggle as I have over the years. Today is a lesson in not just finances but also in hope.
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