How Tithing Helped Us Be More Financially Responsible

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Passing offering basket at church
The days leading up to my childhood birthdays were ones filled with suspense. I'd watch the mailbox like a hawk, awaiting two cards -- one from my grandma and the other from my great aunt and uncle. Each contained cold, hard cash, totaling six whole dollars. And for a 7-year-old, that amount could buy a lot of 10-cent Airheads from the grocery store.

But before any of that money could be exchanged with the store clerk, my parents required that I set 10 percent of it aside for religious tithes. As I got older and made more money, the 10 percent contributions continued. And they weren't much of a sacrifice since my parents paid for almost all of my needs and wants.

And then I grew up and got married to a guy who was also brought up paying 10 percent in tithes. We were young and poor and in debt, and what little money we had was going toward the bare necessities. Right after we'd said "I do," we opened a joint checking account and pooled our meager savings.

Unified Commitment

We'd both tithed our whole lives, but we realized giving away 10 percent was going to hurt a lot more than it had before we were married. We were trying to save for our future now. We wanted to get out of debt. Uncle Sam was already taking a hefty percentage from us. When we thought about it too much, we knew there was no way we could afford to part with that 10 percent to our church.

So we did what any responsible adult would do -- we stopped thinking about it. As soon as we got our paychecks, we paid our utilities, our rent and our tithe. We treated it like one of our bills that just had to be paid. And thanks to making that decision once early on in our marriage, we've never had to make it again. We've also never felt the absence of that 10 percent since.

While tithing itself hasn't necessarily been a boon to our finances (especially after we calculate what our true net income amounts to after tithing and taxes), the mindset we've adopted because of it has helped us be responsible with our money in more ways than one.

Putting Money into Savings Each Month

We approach our savings the same way we do tithing. Before we've spent a cent of our paychecks, we put a certain percentage into savings. Like tithing, we treat it like a bill that needs to be "paid." We've set up an automatic transfer from our checking account so that we don't even have to worry about spending it. Currently, we're also saving for a down payment, and so part of our savings automatically goes toward that savings fund specifically, helping us to make consistent progress.

Saving for Retirement

As with our savings, we save for retirement similarly. Whenever we've had a 401(k) match option with our employers, our contributions are always taken out before we ever see them. It's much harder to miss money you've never seen. Since we don't currently have a 401(k) option, we max out our Roth individual retirement accounts at the beginning of the year before we even have a chance to second-guess ourselves.

Paying Our Credit Cards Off in Full

Each month, no matter what we've spent on our credit cards, we pay the balance in full. We decided from the beginning that if we were going to have credit cards, this is how we would handle them. On the first day of every month, we pay off the balance of every credit card. With a system in place, we once again take the monthly decision-making out of the scenario. In the process, it also ensures that we never spend more than we can pay off, which keeps us far, far away from carrying credit card debt.

Anyone can have this mindset to money. Tithing isn't the magic ticket -- it's just what helped us learn these principles early in marriage. The key is to make a decision once so that you never have to make it again. This helps to take the emotion out of those hard financial decisions. We never allow ourselves to wonder what we could buy with the money we're putting toward retirement or savings or tithing. Instead, we trust our prior decisions and never look back.

6 Financial Issues to Tackle in the Fall
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How Tithing Helped Us Be More Financially Responsible
For many employers, open enrollment season for some benefits happens in October. This usually sneaks up on some people, who scramble to decipher benefits and make elections last minute. Although you won't be able to see the options until the enrollment period opens, take time now to review your benefits. Are you taking advantage of any 401(k) matches? Are your fully funding your Flexible Spending Account? What about employer offered life and disability insurance? (A fun infographic from the Council for Disability Awareness shows your risks). Maximize your benefits and don't leave any money on the table.
Back-to-school time can be expensive if you're not prepared. Money is spent on clothes, books, supplies and technology -- and that's before the doors to the classroom have even opened. Before hitting the stores, do these two things:
  • Conduct an online search for "coupon code" along with the name of any store you'll be shopping at. Typically you can find some great online deals.
  • Get a list from you class or teacher of specific type of notebook, calculator, etc. required. If you can't get child's "must haves" from ahead of time, buy just the bare minimums until school starts and the list is available.
It's hard to think about the holidays when we're just making it through summer, but now is the time to build up a financial cushion. Set yourself up with an automatic transfer to a separate savings account and participate in the Holiday Fund Money Challenge to build up a savings of $450. How much do you need for the gifts, travel, parties, entertaining, food and other holiday activities you anticipate? Planning will help to ease the stress that comes around the holidays.
In lieu of scrambling at the end of the year to make contributions to retirement accounts by Dec. 31, double-check your contributions now and determine if there's room in your cash flow to allow for an increase to possibly max out by year end.
Summer is a typically a time of transitions. There are weddings, moves to new homes, possibly a new family addition and more. If summer is the time when these events take place, fall should be the time to take stock of how they're panning out. If you're recently married and haven't already, now is the time to have the money talk with your spouse and make decisions about spending plans, merging (or not merging) accounts, beneficiary updates and more. If you've moved, check out how the new location has affected your cost of living spending in terms of activities, gas costs, groceries and more. Ultimately with any transition, you need to review your spending plan and determine what areas (if any) need to be adjusted.
If you're lucky enough to live in one of the states that actually experiences seasons, fall is the time to prep for energy savings by caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows, turning your thermostat back for a fixed period each day and insulating your attic, basement or outside walls.
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