4 Moms: Tithing and saving on one income

4 Moms, 35 Kids

Tithing and saving can be a challenge for anyone with any size household and even with any size income.  I think it’s an American tradition to spend more than you earn, and even with the best of intentions it’s entirely too easy to let your expenses creep up every time your income increases.  This is not a problem unique to large families, though it’s certainly more of a challenge when you live on one income as so many large families do.

However, we believe that the Bible teaches that the tithe belongs to God, and we are not so bold as to steal from Him.  That makes tithing much, much easier since the first 10% of what we earn never belonged to us in the first place.  It becomes more a matter of simply doing it, than figuring out how. When the tithe comes out first, right off the top, you never miss it because you never had it in the first place.

And here’s a tip: if you think it’s hard to make ends meet when you pay tithes, see how hard it is when you don’t.  Keep in mind Who controls the rolling spheres and the death of every sparrow, and ask yourself if He will make good on His challenge to His people to test Him:

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.  ~Malachi 3:10

Saving is trickier, because while few would disagree that it’s an exceedingly good idea, it is optional and discretionary.  Do we save as much as we think we should?  Absolutely not.  But we don’t make excuses for ourselves.  We don’t blame our large family and single income.  We say, “Oops.  We blew it again.  Let’s work on this and do better.”

There are several thought patterns that can keep us from building our savings:

I Can’t

It’s easy to convince ourselves that there’s simply no room in our budget to save, but unless you are sitting naked on a dirt floor in the dark, eating nothing but food you found in a dumpster behind a restaurant, you do have choices.  OK, I’m exaggerating, but I hope you get the point.  Cell phones, electric dryers, air conditioners, and – yes, even chocolate chips are niceties, not necessities.  Cocoa powder is debatable.

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”  ~Charles Dickens

I’m not saying that you ought to be saving while your husband is unemployed or during other financial crises.  Temporary hardships are exactly what we save for.  But if you find yourself in an unending state of financial crisis, it may be time to closely examine your lifestyle, spending habits, and career choices, and begin to make some changes.

Later Will Be Easier

It’s not hard to convince yourself that a newer, more reliable and efficient car/house/furnace/windows would be a better use of your money than savings because it will save you money in the long run, enabling you to save more in the future.  But will you actually have the discipline to save more later?  The human psyche is a tricky thing, and you may find another such use for your savings when the car is bought and paid for.

I Have a Better Idea

It’s easy to convince yourself that making extra payments on your house is the same or better than putting money in savings because you are building equity and saving more in interest than your savings account would earn.  Maybe it’s true, and maybe it’s a great idea.  But is it savings?  While it does built your net assets, it’s not savings in the generally accepted sense of the word.  Is this an acceptable substitute, or are you making excuses?

What is Savings, Anyway?

It’s even easy to convince yourself that a good, solid investment which is nearly guaranteed to earn money over time is a wiser way to save than that dusty old bank account or mattress.  But investments are not savings.

Maybe you do mean to include investments in your definition of savings, because that is money that you set aside for the future rather than consuming.  I personally like this definition, and I think that’s a perfectly legitimate way to think if you are serious about it and truly being honest with yourself.

The Secret to Saving

My point is that saving on one income – like saving on two incomes – is largely a matter of dedication and determination.  If it’s non-negotiable to you, you will find a way.  You’ll just take it off the top and make ends meet on what’s left.  If you’re not sure what it means or how much you should be saving or whether it’s really practical in your situation, you might not do it at all.  What’s the old saying? If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

We often are tempted to use our large family status as an excuse for why we don’t or can’t do all things we think we should do.  While it’s true that having a large family can make many things more challenging, it’s very rarely the difference between can and can’t. I think it’s more often a case of letting ourselves off the hook because we feel that we’re at a disadvantage.

Here’s what the other 3 moms say:

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  1. Hi Kim- I love your blog and completely agree with what you said on the tithe but I don’t agree with what you said about saving. Here is a saying we have in the family: “Save, save, always bare – Spend, spend, God will send”. As much as I agree that saving a bit is not a bad thing, I think making a point of saving a fix amount every month can destroy the freedom the Lord wants us to have with the money, “this tainted thing”. Remember when Judas did not agree that Mary Magdalene poured the beautiful and expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and said the perfume could have been sold and given to the poor. Also Jesus on the way to Calvary had the most beautiful tunique. Jesus had this kind of freedom with money that he knew that money was provided by His father. Having a lot of savings can destroy the trust we have in the Lord in hardships as can a life insurance. How will you know that the Lord exists and provides if you have a bank account full?

  2. CarminaB says:

    I love the way you wrote this entry. I am more determined to pay tithing on time and save even if it is $5-10. I also have a large family and I always think “finances are tight”, they are in reality. My husband can’t save a dime or maybe I should say won’t. I am always behind on tithing through out the year but “no more”.Thanks for a beautiful post, it made a difference for me.

  3. Thank you so much for your thoughts. So important, yet so many families miss it.

  4. We treat our savings like we would any other bill, it must be paid. One way to make sure that happens is to set up an automatic transfer for around pay day. That way you really never see the money. We pretend it just isn’t there.

  5. So is the best way to save to pick a flat rate, say $100/pay check and pay it to yourself like a bill, and attempt to cut back elsewhere? We currently are struggling to save the bare minimum(enough to cover prop tax, ins and the like), and very little more. Sometimes I feel like I should be able to save more in food, but I already do most everything from scratch, and I have to eat gluten free. And food costs are going up!GGRRRRRR!

  6. I just don’t see the option to not tithe. I can also choose to steal. To not tithe is to steal money that is not yours. God has kept us clothed and fed and given us a roof over our head every night. You weren’t exaggerating when you described eating out of dumpsters and sitting naked in the dirt. I have lived in those places and seen those people daily. We are RICH. WEALTHY. And unless you are truly in that circumstance, you can absolutely return to God what is His.

  7. “And here’s a tip: if you think it’s hard to make ends meet when you pay tithes, see how hard it is when you don’t.”

    Perfectly said. Our hardest financial times happened when we didn’t tithe…as soonas we started tithing again, our finances became bearable.

Don't just think it: say it!

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