When the Cultivate What Matters team announced their Summer Collection, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on their new Finance Guide. After the past few years being really difficult financially between medical expenses, my own lack of work with being so sick while pregnant and committing to nursing my daughter, and my husband’s former job being a toxic work environment, it has taken us a while to start to get back on our feet and it has been an exhausting journey that has made me want to throw in the towel sometimes. It has felt like the epitome of little by little progress to get out of medical debt- not even little by little, more often microscopic… so my husband and I were ready to dive in together and re-focus on our finance goals with this little guide…
What we found in completing the guide was so much better than just refocusing the goals. It asked deep and sometimes difficult questions in a way that allowed us to openly communicate in a neutral setting (it is really hard to not seem confrontational if you suddenly start asking your spouse about money fears and mistakes out of nowhere so having a “third party” guide the conversation is wonderfully helpful! It reminded me of the way we were given the opportunity to approach difficult questions during our Engaged Encounter experience which was so helpful in giving us a solid foundation for our marriage. One that we relied on during the stressful financial times when we were not communicating at our best.) Some of the questions weren’t even tense or in need of a “neutral” environment, they were just questions we had never thought to ask ourselves.
When it comes to finances, I truly think that the hardest part is that you must be HONEST with your situation before you can do anything about it. There’s a lot of shame around money and because it is one of those topics that are kind of talked about in hushed tones or thought of as impolite it can be so hard to take that starting step, even with the person closest to you. Here are a few of the things I loved that the finance guide prompted us to talk about:
*Our perceptions of money we carried in from our families of origin- this was key and something that could be so helpful for other couples navigating combined finances- discussing ideas that maybe the other person took for granted was the same for the partner/affects each other and the way you approach financial decisions. This is also something I wish I’d have thought about as a single person when I was just out of college and trying to slowly figure out what money meant as an independent adult instead of a college student still getting help from loans and my parents.
*How can you start with gratitude- This was such a great prompt. Our goals seem so huge and unattainable that it can be really discouraging sometimes, but we’ve come so far! That’s easy to forget during the ins and outs of daily sacrificing and budgeting. And odds are good that if you are reading this blog, you have something to be grateful for with your financial situation as well. You have access to the internet! and time to check a blog! maybe even from your smart phone! One of the things I listed as being most grateful for was how we’ve made budgeting a part of our routine because it has greatly helped our communication and eased tensions- that honesty I talked about earlier is definitely a foundational element for marriage and if you’re lying to yourself you can’t be honest with your partner! Budgeting forced us to become really honest and humble.
*The guide also helped us to face the fact that most of our financial decisions are, in fact, decisions. If you’d have asked me a few years ago if being a two car family was a want or a need I’d have definitely said NEED. But we reassessed when our situation changed and it has made us reconsider our blessings and how much luxury we have or had. Asking for a scholarship to certain activities or forgoing them because you are too prideful to do so is a choice, even if it’s not one that is fun to make. Most recently this has meant making the choice to stick with our plans of paying to travel to weddings of dear friends this summer, but at the expense of waiting to fix our bathroom for months because while it felt like a “need” at first we are blessed to have a second bathroom and have managed to get by sharing one between the four of us… and it has made me extra excited that we are FINALLY getting it fixed this summer. When it came to summarizing our financial choices, this is what we put: “We are choosing family and simplicity and faith”- all our financial decisions are made with the guidepost of not burdening our children/focusing on a stronger family and living our values— there are so many goals large and small that stem from this central vision of what kind of choices we want to make as we move forward. In some ways we aren’t even close to “there” yet, but on others we can see that we are making progress.
Is money still a source of stress for us? I’d be lying if I said no. But I can honestly say it is so much better now that we don’t have the additional stress over communicating effectively about money. Anyone else completed plan to work through the Cultivate What Matters Finance Guide?! Whether the answer is yes or no, I’d love to hear if you have any questions or quotes about finances and the way you approach them that have helped you in your financial goals, or what keeps you motivated on long term goals like this that feel so fluid with what life throws at you!