Sharing Our Story
As a result of some family emergencies, including a funeral, I had to depend on the bank for a short-term loan. I didn’t want to enter into married life with debt, so I chose to clear that loan before our wedding date. It was a sacrifice well worth it. Yippee! Life was good. But really I had no idea what life was all about.
Once I paid off the bank loan, I was able to start saving towards our wedding day. We then chose to use our savings to cover the deposit for our marital home (a studio apartment), covered all the expenses such as solicitors and surveyor’s fees. We then used our wages each month to save up for and furnish our property (including the purchase of a second-hand 3-piece sofa suite we are still using today, 18 years later).
I was under the illusion that once we started our married life debt free, there would be nothing stopping us from continuing on our journey free of debt. But we had limited money management skills. We only knew that we shouldn’t spend more than what we had and we should save up for what we need. If we wanted something and couldn’t afford it, we would do without it—only needs were catered for. Nevertheless, we were saving for short-term needs but struggling to save for long-term needs.
Those needs rapidly increased when we became parents, then we started to understand the need for financial education. It took us many years into our parenting journey before we understood the importance of seeking out the necessary training needed to avoid getting into debt. The lack of wisdom and understanding would have found us quickly plummeting towards debt and not being able to take care of those needs.
The first thing we realised once we became parents was the necessity of a car. We were spending a lot of money on taxis (from getting the shopping home to visiting extended families, attending doctor’s appointments and late night hospital visits). The realities of life had started to kick-in.
Soon, after starting a family we outgrew our studio apartment. We needed to look for a larger property but by then, we had become a one income family. The nursery fees exceeded my income living in that part of London, so it made financial sense staying at home [which later revealed other benefits regarding our child’s emotional and educational development].
In order to find a property big enough to accommodate our family, that was affordable, we had to move out of London. We had to borrow additional funds from the bank as a top-up for our mortgage. That found us struggling to balance our books, shortly after moving into our new place of abode.
We depended heavily on the overdraft facilities on both our accounts to keep afloat. Then we were hit by another emergency which introduced a credit card into the mix. Slowly we began walking down the path we fought so hard not to introduce into the marriage. Savings became a thing of the past while spending on the essentials and keeping up with repayments continued on a rapidly increasing basis.
As parents, money is consistently being requested from various avenues since our child began school. Often they are small amounts we think we can afford but without the habit of budgeting, we were digging a deeper hole for ourselves. We quickly realised we couldn’t afford to continue down the path we had found ourselves travelling (even with the part time jobs I had while our son was in infant school and my later self-employed status).
Eventually, we got to the point where we had to seek help. We went on a money course and gained some money management skills. They are tips we could have benefited from if we had them before we actually started a life together. But as the saying goes: It’s never too late to make a change. So while we are trying to do all that we can to get to a healthy place financially, we are sharing the knowledge gained with those who can benefit from it.
When people are in debt, these tips rarely help because often they need to increase their income first in order to best utilise such tips. It is always best to start developing good financial habits before having financial responsibilities. At the same time these tools can help anyone in debt to start climbing out and have the hope of living free from debt. So if you are in the position to help teach money management to our children then they will be in a better position when they start working.
As a person who is passionate about the health of families, I believe that bible principles, when put into practice, can help to bring about sustainable change which will find our homes healthy environments where families can thrive. Proverbs 22:7 says:
The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.
As long as we are in debt we are unable to save and invest. We become slaves to the bank managers and card companies, working simply to pay the bills. With such a lifestyle we do not have the ability to ‘give generously’ (2 Cor. 9:6-15) even though we have plenty of opportunities for giving. So it is very important to get the help needed to get out of debt so that the process of earning, saving, and spending can flow smoothly and opportunities for giving seized.
Many people are trapped in debt and cannot operate effectively in their God-given roles because their focus is on clearing debt. That can affect other areas of their lives also. Sometimes the debt seems to increase rather than decrease because of the rise in cost-of-living not being in line with the rise of wages. It then brings on ill-health realising that with all their efforts and sacrifices made, they are only making interest payments rather than clearing the actual debt itself. They become ill from the recognition that there is no room for financial growth that would eventually lead to financial freedom.
To leaders in the home setting I say, passing on financial wisdom to children and grandchildren can help to break the cycle of being trapped in debt. Share the wisdom you have gained through your years of experience. Your past mistakes can also be used as a teaching opportunity for the people in your circle/family tree.
To the church I say, we can change that culture by starting right where we are today. We can place those needs before God and then follow His instructions on how to move forward. Let us not just say we love. Let us actually love (1 John 3:16-18) one another. Romans 13:8 reminds us that love fulfills the Law: “ Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
We cannot say we love the people who are in our fellowships and do nothing to help them overcome the issues they are struggling with. We can never fulfil our debt of love but we can help our brothers and sisters to eliminate their financial debts and teach them how to manage their finances so they can become generous givers. In our teaching, Luke 14:28 can help to retrain the minds of those who have fallen into the debt trap.
1 Tim 6:6-10 helps us to understand that we should not be lovers of money. Nevertheless, among your congregants will be those who are ‘lovers of money’. Teach them so they can understand the need to, keep their lives free from the love of money and be content with what they have (Heb 13:5).
Thank you for what you are about to do to get out of debt or help others become debt-free.
Your sister in Christ,Janice.21st July 2018
_____Notes: CAP Money course is the one we attended and would like to recommend to anyone seeking a better way to manage their finances or seeking help to get out of debt. They are currently available in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Your local Citizens Advice centre can also assist you. Here in the UK (and Ireland), you can seek the support of Step Change if you are at a crisis point. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) UK also have a debt service for those who are at crisis point. The Money Saving Expert website is a good resource also.
There are many resources available to help us develop healthy financial habits. The ones I have come across I will share and please feel free to share any tips or advice in the ‘comment’ area below.