Contentment in Consumerism World

What Boots Taught Me about Comparison, Contentment, and Identity

One of the main themes I hope to speak into through this blog is the root, or “heart reasons” behind our spending habits. When we were living on a tight budget to pay off our loans, Drew and I each had $20/month for individual “fun money.” That doesn’t go very far when you think about getting coffee with a friend, dinner, wanting a new top, etc.

Blog: boots

We primarily bought new clothes when we had a “need” vs. a “want.” When I needed a coat or work shoes, these types of scenarios. The same principle of not buying many “wants” applied to home decorations, furniture, entertainment, etc. The result of this was frequent thoughts of comparison and/or feeling insecure. I’d feel frumpy if I was wearing the same thing a lot or something felt a little dated.

By God’s grace, I found by praying through the root cause of my feelings (i.e. unhealthy comparison, placing my identity in things or acceptance, etc.), I’d often come away refreshed and no longer desiring the “want” that left me feeling like “woe is me.”

This process went something like this:

  • I’d compare my outfit to someone else and feel frumpy or “less than”
  • I’d immediately feel sorry for myself or want to rush to the store to fix the emotion
  • When I’d pray through the scenario, by God’s grace, I’d feel refreshed and realize my outfit was just fine; the root was comparison and it was stealing my joy
  • Suddenly I cared a lot less about whatever it was that took over my mind and emotions moments ago


There’s a difference in truly “needing” to replace something that’s worn out, and just a fleeting emotion that makes you feel like you must replace it. Most the time mine was the latter.

My hope in this blog is to encourage us to fight for contentment. To take our fleeting thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. It can be challenging to know how to take each thought obedient to Christ. After all, where in the Bible does it say how and when to shop, right? But when we slow down, pray through the root/heart cause of our emotions, and remind ourselves of biblical truth, I think this allows us to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-6).

I can say 9 times out of 10, my thoughts were fleeting and due to unhealthy comparison.


To provide a personal example, I’ll share my “boot story.”

Let’s walk down memory lane to Christmas, 2014. I actually needed a pair of boots and had my eyes on a pair of dark brown, combat style boots.  Our family’s are very generous gift-givers, so I waited for Christmas to roll around to get them. After all, my $20/month wouldn’t go far when buying good quality boots. I received a gift card that covered the cost of the boots and was super excited to wear my new shoes. They were all leather and would probably last several more years.

Fast forward to Christmas 2015. This year I had my eye on the new booties that everyone was wearing: light-brown, cute ankle boots. The problem was my other boots were in great shape. All of a sudden, I was focused on the new style and discontent.

Long story short, God helped we pray through the root causes of my heart and pursue contentment and gratitude for what I had. By the time Christmas came around and I had gift cards, I no longer desired the other boots. They would have been a nice treat, but I was kind of “over it” by Christmas.

In practical ways, I knew there would be a different style out the next year, and the next. Once my heart was in a better place, I don’t think it would’ve been wrong for me to buy the booties, I just didn’t really desire them anymore. My other boots also served as a “heart cleanser” because I was reminded each time I wore them of how much I have to be grateful for, especially in light of all the needs around me. Lastly, I actually love my boots. They’re totally me (when I’m content)!

Although our budget isn’t as tight, today, the lessons from this story still apply. Do I race to the store every time someone at work has a nice outfit? When my shoes don’t feel “enough”? When I visit someone else’s home and suddenly I’m discontent with my own?

If I take these thoughts captive, more often than not, I’m content with where I am and what I have. I do refresh my wardrobe and we do decorate our home, but I think it’s done in a much healthier fashion (no pun intended) when my identity is in Christ and not opinions of others.

Wherever you are in your finances, I hope this post encourages and gives you ammo to fight the battles of your heart and mind. I’m so grateful for the season of a tight budget, as it taught me to appreciate what I have and realize we really don’t need much to be content.


#WhereYourTreasureIs #ThereWillYourHeartBeAlso


OK, enough hashtag shenanigans.


Peace and love!



Faith and Financial Resources

3 Encouragements on Money from the Bible

Many of us probably have goals for 2018 and, since you’re reading this, I imagine some of them revolve around finances. Pursuing new goals can be difficult, so I wanted to encourage you with what I think is a huge game-changer in our ability to focus on the target and keep momentum.

My friend and I were recently discussing how habits don’t typically stick unless they’re rooted in Godly conviction. I’ve noticed whatever I’m working on must be important enough to internally motivate me and keep me driven when things get tough.

3 encouragements from the bible on money

So, with this in mind, today is about prayerfully considering God’s Word on how we view resources, seeking to be rooted in Godly conviction.

I plan on sharing practical tips on how to create and follow a budget in the coming weeks, but the goal of this post is to create the underlying motivation before pursuing the tactical suggestions. You might say this is post is about your “why.”

3 Encouragements on Money from the Bible

1. The Ant

“Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” Proverbs 6:6-11

Ouch. Sluggard? I wouldn’t typically consider myself a “sluggard,” but  this passage recently convicted me in certain areas and habits. My constant struggle is sticking to a workout routine. My goal is very reasonable: exercise 3x/week for 30 minutes. However, too often I make excuses or don’t prioritize my time well.

As I was reading this passage and realizing I do have “sluggard” tendencies, the last part of the passage really sunk in, “A little sleep, a little slumber… and poverty will sneak up on you” (paraphrased). Essentially, little by little I’m not exercising and the long-term result is likely to sneak up on me.

I also think this passage teaches us about delayed gratification and wise planning. In order to hibernate, the ant “prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” Many ant species  hibernate in the winter, storing food and preparing their nest in warmer seasons.  Ants work hard and plan for a reward that isn’t immediate.

Can you relate in the areas of finances or something else? Just like in my exercise example, little by little small choices in our money management can have a huge impact (positive or negative).

In a culture that constantly advertises immediate gratification, I believe we need an internal motivation and conviction to help us “swim upstream” and pursue a different strategy.

2. The Rich Young Man

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’… Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’  But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19: 16, 21-26 (I trimmed verses; get full context here)

The rich young man went away sad, unable to give all head had to follow Jesus; I think there’s something here. What if we intentionally pursue a modest lifestyle with the intent that, by God’s grace and strength (Matthew 19:26), we’re ready to go wherever He sends us?

I don’t think this is necessarily the stereotypical thought that God will ask us to give everything away and go to a third world country, though He might. What if it’s paying off debts so we’re prepared to take a pay cut to go where He calls? Or ready to give to someone unexpectedly because we’re not slaves to the lender (Proverbs 22:7)? Or not in a lifestyle that’s hard to give up?

Let’s slow down to consider this before moving on too quickly, thinking we don’t idolize money.

For me, I can idolize money for the perceived security it brings. I’d much rather have tons in savings vs. a nice home or car. I could be perceived as being a good steward and not loving money, when my heart is in the same place as the rich young man in Matthew 19.

Or maybe it’s quick to say, “well, I’m not rich.” Maybe not by our surrounding culture, but keep reading in point #3.

3. Laying Up Treasures in Heaven

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21

As we’ve all heard, Americans are truly rich. It may not feel like it, but when was the last time you didn’t know what you would eat, on a regular, recurring basis? When have you not had a roof over your head or shelter? When have you looked around and been surrounded by literal poverty with little hope?

As I referenced above, I idolize money for the perception of security. While I think there’s wisdom in preparing for the future, like the ant, I want to guard against laying up “treasures” on this earth (namely in my bank account). Perhaps for you it’s “treasures” in outward appearance, status, etc. Maybe you’re spending more than you make or is financially wise to “keep up with the Joneses.”

May we each consider how we can build treasures in Heaven rather than “treasures” on earth.


How we view and spend money is often deeply rooted in idols of security, status, and being focused on building our kingdom over God’s kingdom.

I hope we can each prayerfully consider these verses and ask God to give us compelling convictions to steward our resources according to His plan and purpose.

If these didn’t resonate with you, do some scripture studying on your own to see what the Bible teaches about money. Ask God to provide Christ-centered wisdom, conviction, and even excitement to pursue what He may lay on your heart.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24


Em ❤


One in Christ

I’ve been reading through Ephesians the last few weeks, reflecting on Paul reminding Christians we’re One in Christ. I continually think how this is so applicable to our country, particularly regarding racial division. I felt inspired to write this blog two days before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and the timing seemed fitting.

One in Christ

Of course, I couldn’t say it better than the scripture itself, so please read the verses below. It’s a good bit to read, but so powerful.

Keep in mind, these verses were written after Christ died and rose from the dead, fulfilling the Old Testament Law that had previously divided people groups based on religion. When Christ came, He abolished the hostility between the two groups and welcomed all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or previous religion, to join the Body of Christ, through faith in Him. One Body. One in Christ.

As you read this, picture our current state and how this might apply to the way we seek being One in Christ. While it’s not a perfect analogy because Paul’s addressing a different group, there’s so much truth we can apply. Christ’s desire for His people is clear.

Note: Unless you’re Jewish, Gentiles would be all of us reading this.

All of the verses below are taken from Ephesians chapters 2-4. I’ve noted the chapter and verses at the end of each chunk. The phrases in bold stand out to me, relevant to this topic.

One in Christ

11 “Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[e] the Spirit.” (2:11-22)

The Mystery of the Gospel Revealed

“This mystery is[f] that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” (3:6)

Unity in the Body of Christ

4 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (4:1-6)

15 “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (4:15-16)


There’s so much wonderful application from these passages for my heart. I feel like God brings something new to light each time I read it.

If we claim to be a Christian, it’s not ok to be prejudice. Perhaps claiming to love Christ one moment, and thinking it’s ok to tell a racist joke the next. It’s just as sinful to sound like we love all people or we’re nice to everyone at the surface, but deep down believing we’re better. We must continually ask God to reveal the depths of our hearts and bring us to repentance for areas in which we’re not loving all people like Christ loves us.

I have blind spots and I want to continue growing in the understanding of racial reconciliation. I don’t share as an expert on this topic, but as somebody who desires unity, humility, and understanding in regards to race. I share as someone who has a lot to learn and areas for growth, but wants to speak up, nonetheless.

We may not all agree with how the government or political groups approach improving diversity and inclusion, but God’s Word unifies opinions and gives clear direction on how all Christians should love one another. One Body. One in Christ.

Main Takeaways:

1. If we’re a Christ-follower, we’ve been fully adopted into God’s family, fully forgiven from all our sin by no work we’ve done. Fully undeserving, “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12).

Reflection: How can any of us, who have been fully adopted and accepted, by no work that we’ve done, reject someone based on race and/or color of skin?

2. “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (2:14-16).

Reflection: Does my belief, heart, and/or actions help destroy the wall of hostility, or am I rebuilding it (or not doing anything)?

3. Do I treat all my brothers and sisters in Christ as a family? As fellow citizens and members of the household of God? (3:19)



4. “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (4:1-3).

Reflection: Am I living my life this way? With all humility, gentleness, bearing with one another in love? Eager to do this?

5. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (4:4-6)

Reflection: Do I see all believers as part of one body?

6. In Christ, “…the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (4:15-16)


Reflection: As a “joint” intended to help the entire “body grow so that it builds itself up in love,” am I helping or hindering our growth?


There is so much racism in America and, sadly, among Christians. This grieves God’s heart, as His creation is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139), intended to be One in Christ.

How do our heart motives and actions need to change in light of this?

In closing, I hope we each consider the implications of these verses, specifically, today, in light of building racial reconciliation, but also in the ways we can each be a working “piece” of the Body at large. Growing the Body in love (paraphrased 4:15-16).

How can each of us contribute in removing hostility and building up the entire Body?


One in Christ,

Em ❤

Practical Budgeting Tips

Creating an Intentional Christmas Budget -Part 4 of 4

xmas_pt4_280x500That’s a wrap (pun intended)! Christmas is behind us and we’re on to a new year. How ’d you do? Were you able to make special memories with loved ones and stick to your budget? Fight consumerism and remember Christmas is ultimately about celebrating Jesus’ birth?

As I reflect on our Christmas, we managed to stay within budget for each category. I’m sharing a picture of our budget, below, so you can be encouraged by how simple it is to track what you spend. I don’t expect you to be able to read and/or make sense of it, but hopefully it’s a helpful overview.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to total up your spending to see how you did. Now is a great time to reflect what you’re glad you did well this Christmas and what you’d like to change. What can you do now for next year? Write down how much you spent this past Christmas and determine if you think this is a reasonable amount. Would you prefer to spend less or more next year?

Our 2017 Christmas budget totals:


If Christmas often catches your wallet by surprise, I recommend preparing for Christmas way in advance. We have a gifts category within our budget and intentionally add to it all year in efforts to have the balance we’d like for Christmas. We track this on our budget spreadsheet within YNAB. By the time Christmas is here, purchasing presents truly is a gift (pun intended) and not a burden.

Create a budget now and begin planning for next Christmas. Remember, Christmas is on December 25th every year. 😉

What memories do you want to make in the future and what’s preventing you from that, now?


You got this!



Practical Budgeting Tips

Creating an Intentional Christmas Budget -Part 3 of 4

How’s sticking to the budget going? How many times have you been tempted to overspend or felt pressured to buy something you didn’t plan for?

xmas_pt3_280x500_3 of 4

Last week, I gave tips on creating a Christmas budget. Be sure to check out the budget template at the bottom of last week’s post!

This week, I want to provide quick concepts to help stick to the budget when the going gets tough. Let’s get to it!

3 Tips to Stick to Your Budget:

1. Rethink Traditions and Overindulging:

How can you make current traditions more affordable? Can you exchange names vs. purchasing gifts for multiple people? Spend $0 on new decorations and use what you already have? Do you really need 6 pies for 8 people?

Got kids and can’t imagine spending less? What can you do to fill in the gap with special memories (playing games, crafts, going to festivals, driving around to find lights, etc.)? I recommend “bringing them along” and explaining why you’re spending less.

I so appreciate my parents teaching me about a budget at a young age. Some years we did less at Christmas than others. We always understood, and I have good memories of every Christmas. I think explaining to your kids why you’re changing your spending habits will help prepare them to make wise financial decisions as adults.

Here’s some ideas to rethink traditions and trim back:

  • Make lattes at home or spruce up your coffee with festive creamer.
  • Got a Christmas party to dress up for? Get creative and spend nothing or less than $10.
  • Send Christmas cards via email and/or on social media.
  • If you have young kids, re-give a gift they’ve forgotten about. Or maybe they have grandparents that will be giving them plenty. 😉
costumes and coffe
$7 Christmas costume, and enjoying homemade coffee and lattes. ❤


2. Renew Your Mind:

Remind yourself: “I’m doing this because _____________ …“ (I want to be free from debt; I want to create financial margin; I want to be aware of how much resources I’m spending and be a good steward).

Remember: we spend ~$1 trillion as a nation this time of year. Between commercials that compare you to your neighbor, movies that make the holidays look picture perfect, and peer pressure and comparison of others, we’ll definitely be tempted to spend a lot of money. Have a game plan and stick to what’s “healthy” for you.

Keep an eye on what you’re putting in your cart before spending. Did you budget for it? If not, what’s at the root of the purchase? Did you get caught up in the marketing to make you want it? Or is it something extra special for a loved one? Does it fit within your budget? If not, where will the money come from?

3. Avoid Credit at All Costs:

I repeat. Avoid credit at all costs (pun intended!). What gift is worth going in debt over? What could you do to give a sweet gift, or cut spending in other areas to be able to afford the gift and avoid paying high interest on debt?


You can do it! Stay in the fight!


Practical Budgeting Tips

Creating an Intentional Christmas Budget -Part 2 of 4

OK, team, we’re on a mission. Let’s call it “operation stay out of debt and make healthy financial decisions.” 😉

Last week, I shared some statistics around increased spending for Christmas, as well as underlying principles to help you prepare and frame your perspective for this busy season. As I mentioned here, over half our country plans to take on debt this time of year, so we need a plan. xmas_pt2_280x500_preview

This week, I want to focus on a practical tips. I’m  super pumped to provide a Christmas budget template! It’s free and you don’t have to subscribe. Simply download from links at the bottom of this post (printable and excel).

Throughout the template, there’s helpful reminders to help you stick to your budget.

So, let’s get right to it!

5 Tips to Create a Budget for Christmas:

1. Determine how much you have to spend.

How much would you like to spend on Christmas this year? Are you spending beyond your means? In my opinion, you shouldn’t go beyond what’s financially wise, let alone take on debt.

If there’s a gap between what you’d like to spend and what you have, where can you save to put money towards a Christmas budget (i.e. eating out less, making coffee at home, minimizing groceries expenses, etc.)?

Pausing to make a budget and predict how much you’ll spend is a great eye-opener. You’ll realize where you’re money is going and have an opportunity to reassess.

2. List spending categories and allocate funds.

Once you have your overall budget, based on what you can afford and in alignment with your priorities, allocate to each category. If you find you’re going over, “clean up your list” and trim back.

It’s OK to spend less than you normally would on gifts and/or change traditions. We definitely did during our debt-free journey. We used the decorations we already had and used a live wreath instead of purchasing a Christmas tree. It’s been refreshing to learn how you can get creative and not feel like you’re missing out.

Drew and my first Christmas, 2 months after we got married. ❤


3. Think of gift ideas BEFORE shopping (this is war and you need a game plan!).

I typically shop at Marshalls/TJ Maxx because I can find something for almost everyone in the family for a great price. I also love Amazon, especially if I’m looking for something unique. The mall is fun if you want a Christmas atmosphere, but I rarely shop there because prices are higher.

4. Track how much is spent as you go.

When we were paying off our debt, we tracked everything we spent. Everything. This is so helpful in saving money, so of course I have to include it here.

We also try to avoid just getting something to check the box and have a gift for someone. Keep it simple. Keep it special.

5. Renew your mind often.

Ask yourself why sticking to a budget is important to you. When you’re tempted to overspend, is it something truly special and what’s good for you and yours, or pressure from media, family, or comparison? Have a game plan and remember it. REPEAT.

Like I mentioned last week, the US spends approximately $1 trillion on Christmas as a nation. We will be marketed to and tempted to spend above our means. Are you ready for the battle?


Here are the templates I put together to assist you this year (with my hubs’ help making it look nice!):

Printable PDF: Intentional_Christmas_Budget

This is great because you can carry it with you and track as you go…and it’s pretty!


Excel: Intentional Christmas Budget

This format has built in formulas to track your spending.

Example of budget in progress:

Screen Shot 2017-11-30 at 5.10.30 PM


Graphic cred:

I hope this helps you focus on the true meaning of Christmas (Jesus!) and equips you to make special memories without making financial decisions you’ll regret.

Peace and joy!



Practical Budgeting Tips

Creating an Intentional Christmas Budget -Part 1 of 4

OK, team, we’re approaching a wonderful time of year. Lots of traditions, seasonal lattes, scarves, boots, decor, and all the feels. Christmas budget, blog

But we need to be ready. We’re going into a season where we spend approximately $1 trillion on Christmas as a nation. A nation that is in roughly $20 trillion in debt (hmmm…).


We’ll be marketed to like crazy. “You’ve got to have the beautiful tree, awesome decor, gifts, and more gifts.” We’ll likely feel pressured and might get caught up in this whirlwind.

We need a game plan.

Check out these statistics on Christmas spending:

  • “In a recent survey, 56% of Americans admitted they’re planning to rack up debt this season, 16% of which expect it to take six months or more to pay off.”


  • “…data confirms that parents are spending an average of $422 per child on holiday gifts, with 34% of parents spending $500 or more per child.”


  • “An estimated 25% are taking drastic measures such as withdrawing money from their 401(k)s, dipping into their emergency savings, or taking out payday loans in order to purchase holiday gifts.”


  • “And while a fair number of parents understand the importance of creating a holiday budget, a good 58% of families fail to actually stick to one.”


These trends are pretty crazy, right? More than half our country plans to take on debt.

Don’t get me wrong, Thanksgiving and Christmas are my favorite holidays. However, I can be disappointed when it’s all over because our culture, memories, and the Christmas movies we watch build our expectations so high it can be hard to make them a reality.

I try to battle all the pressure with thinking through what’s special to my family of two. To date, Drew and I have spent about $50-75 on each other/year, while focusing on the memories we want to make. We’ve yet to buy a Christmas tree and barely decorate, but we’ve done small things that were special to us.

These decisions were primarily made while we were paying off loans, but it’s taught us to evaluate what’s important to us and how much we want to spend based on our priorities. This year we may actually purchase a tree, but it’s been refreshing to wait and see what’s special to us versus feeling pressured to do something.

Here’s my encouragement: get ready for the battle against consumerism and the hustle and bustle that takes away from the meaning of Christmas. Start thinking about what you can afford (based on your budget) and have a game plan before you take on Amazon or the beautifully decorated malls that have spent tons to get you to spend more.


We’ve got to prepare and be ready to fight. Otherwise “they’ll” win.

Stay tuned for my post in 2 weeks, part 2 of this 4 part series. I’ll share practical tips around creating and sticking to a budget for Christmas.

In the meantime, think through how much you typically spend for Christmas. What can you change to avoid debt or prevent spending more than you can afford? Where can you begin saving to prepare (i.e. eating out, entertainment, clothes, etc.)?

If you have the money in your budget, what’s reasonable? Do your Christmas expectations and what you’re willing to spend align with your priorities (i.e. financial goals, vision for your life, giving)? How could you make special memories without the overload?

May we pursue true joy in Christmas this year! ❤


Faith and Financial Resources

Fall Shopping Spree: Refreshing My Wardrobe to the Glory of God

I woke up a couple weekends ago thinking about shopping with a desire to refresh my wardrobe…a wardrobe that had been a little neglected with us being on a tight budget for several years. And let’s be real, I’ve always been pretty frugal so sometimes I realize I’m wearing stuff I’ve had for a looong time.


So anyway, Drew was a good sport and went with me to the outlets. I went “prayed up” because I often get a bit overwhelmed working through wanting to be a good steward and not being materialistic or getting caught up in consumerism while also wanting some freedom in enjoying feeling cute and being relevant.

It was somewhat easier when we were on a tighter budget than having more resources, now. Before, I had a set budget and followed pretty closely. Now, I have an abundance (compared to before) and I’m wrestling through being free in Christ and not a slave to my own man-made rules (what I tend to lean towards when wanting to know the “right” amount to spend; this can be legalistic for sure).

I often wrestle through “two sides of the ditch” between thoughts rooted in materialism versus asceticism.

Materialism: “ excessively concerned with physical comforts or the acquisition of wealth and material possessions, rather than with spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.”

Asceticism: “the doctrine that a person can attain a high spiritual and moral state by practicing self-denial, self-mortification, and the like.”


These definitions are extreme, but I definitely see myself get stuck in some way between the two. I think it’s healthy to fight materialism and not find our identity in stuff, image, success, approval, etc. I think it’s equally important not to swing the pendulum the opposite way of thinking you can’t enjoy good things.

While shopping that day, I got stuck at times, possibly trying to have the “perfect formula” for how much to spend. I kept praying for God to give me wisdom and freedom in Him.

By the end of the weekend, I felt pretty free and good about the decisions I’d made. Ultimately, resting in God’s grace. I think seeking to be a good steward, pushing back against consumerism, and wanting to be relevant is a life-long journey of prayer and asking God to guide me. This is a much better route than creating rules for myself and thinking I’ve got it figured out.

My ultimate desire is to be lead by the Holy Spirit, to keep searching the motives of my heart,  pursue freedom, and aim to glorify God in the way I live (yes, even in shopping!). By doing this, I’m finding freedom “getting out of the ditch” on either side. It’s a continual process with conviction and grace along the way.

I’m so thankful I’m no longer a slave to the law, but free in Jesus. ❤

As a bonus, here’s some practical tips I often process before shopping:

  • Intent: Who am I trying to please? Is this to enjoy with pure motives or is it rooted in envy, pleasing people, pressure of what you’re “supposed to do”?
  • Priorities: does this align and/or support my priories?
  • Budget: does this fit within budget?
  • Eternity: how much do I want to acquire on earth? How much money am I willing to spend on outward appearance? Personally I like to keep it simple, pursuing the benefits of margin.

Hope this is helpful insight into what I work through. Your priorities and convictions may be completely different. The biggest point I want to make is the importance of seeking to honor God with our resources and asking Him to guide us.

Can you relate? How do you work through wanting to honor God in the way you use your resources while wanting to be relevant and enjoy things? Comment below.



Practical Budgeting Tips

Should We Upgrade Our Vehicle?

For the past year or so, Drew and I have considered upgrading my 2003 Camry for a newer CRV. With other finance goals in mind, we’ve been thinking through if buying a newer vehicle is a good decision for us, currently.

Here’s some of the things we’ve worked through:   vehicle

Pros (reasons to buy a newer vehicle):

  • The excitement of a “new car” and liking the look of a CRV
  • This would be a great road trip vehicle and sweet for camping
  • I’d like to trade my car in before we have to put a lot of money into fixing it

Cons (reasons to wait):

  • Vehicles are not an investment, they only lose value
  • I primarily drive my car to and from work, park it all day, and drive home
  • Seems silly to pay ~$12k to park a car all day
  • While some days my wanting a CRV is really just because I like the look of it, many times it’s rooted in pride; pride in feeling good in what I drive, that I paid cash for a nicer vehicle, etc. (the ugly stuff in my heart)
  • We could invest the $12k-13k, instead
  • It’s currently just Drew and me, so I don’t “need” a bigger car
  • I’m hesitant to make such an expensive purchase based on “want” vs. “need,” especially in light of all the ways we could use the money
  • The Camry has been a great car and huge blessing; it’s needed minimal repairs, gets great gas mileage, and has provided sweet memories (the first car I’ve ever purchased and what we’ve had since getting married)

After thinking through the points, above, we plan to keep the Camry and hold off on upgrading. If major things begin to break, we’ll probably reconsider. Personally, I’d only be buying it for a “want” and not a “need” and, for now, it doesn’t seem best to put $12-13k into a vehicle to replace a car that’s been such a blessing.

Additionally, with us not saving for retirement or investing while we paid off our loans, our goal is to “make up for it” now by building up those accounts. We also want to pay 20% down for a home, save for vacations, and other goals.

This conclusion may change tomorrow, but it seems like the best decision for us today.

I hope this post provides encouraging perspective. Perspective to pray through the motives of our heart and use wisdom, reason, and a vision for our life, instead of just thinking about what we want. If we can pursue contentment in what we have and take captive thoughts of wanting the “next thing,” I think making wise purchases gets a whole lot easier.

You may be in a different place today where buying a newer vehicle is a good decision. In all circumstances, however, I encourage you to filter your decision(s) through similar thoughts; pursuing contentment and perspective before making the purchase, and being open to waiting if it seems best. All the while, asking God to reveal the motives of your heart (and this is so freeing! <3).

In a culture where consumerism, comparison, and discontentment run rampant, we need to be prepared to push back. Are you with me?!


Practical Budgeting Tips

“Living Forward” Creating a Life Plan to Transform Your Finances

I recently started reading Living Forward by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy. The premise is creating a “life plan” based on the legacy you want to leave, along with a tactical strategy you’ll implement to pursue your vision. The author’s ask you to imagine your funeral and what would be said about you. If you don’t think where you are today will lead to the legacy you want to leave, the goals you make in between the gap are what you’ll pursue through your life plan.

living forward. blog

This concept was essentially my motivation to pay off our loans ASAP, looking into the future and making a plan to achieve the desired result.

When Drew and I got engaged, we began discussing the type of future we’d like, starting a family, personal goals, etc. We knew paying $986/month would be a hindrance, in general, and we didn’t want to live with that weight for the next 20+ years. We knew it would largely play into many decisions we would make and trap us down.

*photo credit

So we created a vision for our money (like a short-term life plan). The end goal was to pay off our debt before having kids. This led us to a goal of being debt free within 2-3 years.

We knew the starting point ($76k of debt) and where we wanted to go (debt-free within 2-3 years).

Next, similar to the advice from Living Forward, we needed to fill in the gap with a tactical plan (how we’d attempt to pay off $76k in less than 3 years).

This led to Drew researching budget tools and us using YNAB (You Need a Budget). We set a budget of what we thought was a reasonable amount of money in each category/month (food, spending, entertainment, clothes, bills, etc.) and began tracking everything we spent.

The difference between where we were and where we wanted to end up was easily measurable with this tool. The key was keeping an eye on the end goal and our progress to get there, adjusting the plan to meet the goal if we got off course. Click here to learn more about our strategy.

Where I want to focus today is encouraging you to realize where you are with your finances, determine your end goal, and create an action plan to get there. Make the action plan measurable, and view your progress often. I recommend checking your budget before you spend money, as well as your weekly and monthly progress. Believe me, you can get creative in cutting back the grocery bill if you know you have $50 remaining and a week before the month ends.

So what’s your end goal? Pick something that motivates you. Here’s some of my motivations:

  • Margin for when unexpected expenses arise, for pursuing a dream (like Drew quitting his job to pursue a career change), and to decrease worry over money (remembering, ultimately, God’s in control and my source of peace)
  • Have a savings worth 6 months of living expenses
  • Increase generosity
  • Save for retirement
  • Buy a house with a nice down payment, taking on less interest/debt
  • Pursue investments and other income streams
  • Flexibility

Another take-away from Living Forward, is to create “pull power” with the goals you set. In other words, your goal should be motivating enough to pull you through to the end.

“The lesson is simple. You get what you focus on. What we see ahead impacts the actions we take right now. How we live and lead is directly connected to what we see. What’s important is that the future be enticing enough to stay focused. We call this ‘pull power.’” -Living Forward

If we didn’t have specific goals when we started our debt-free journey, I predict we’d still have about $40k in debt. If we had passively said, “hey, I think debts bad and we should pay off our loans,” we probably would’ve put extra money left over each month towards loans. However, I anticipate it would’ve been about half as much because we’d be thinking in terms of “that’s a nice goal,” but probably not filtering our decisions through it.

What would you need to change to save ___fill in the blank___/month to hit your goal in ___fill in the blank___ time-frame? Remember your end goal often and filter spending habits through this.

Bonus: making sacrifices to pay off debt is typically a choice. Reflect on your end goal for motivation and fight against a “woe is me mindset.”

What’s the future you desire? Would love to hear your goals in the comments!

.Em ❤