Why do I DO this to myself?

One of the problems with being a detail-oriented person is that you get stuck with all the jobs that require attention to detail. Most of the time, I don’t mind. In fact, I quite enjoy sorting, organizing, bringing order to chaos, making lists, cataloging things, editing and proofreading, etc. But I absolutely HATE any task related to keeping track of our family / ministry finances. And let’s face it — financial tasks require a lot of attention to detail, whether that be paying bills, balancing a checkbook (okay, I don’t really do this anymore, I just keep track of it all online), creating a budget, doing your taxes, or expense reporting. I hate it all!

And I hate the vicious cycle I get caught in over and over. I put off doing financial tasks, not necessarily because of my dislike for them, but because I am a perfectionist. Did you know that perfectionists tend toward procrastination? A perfectionist wants to do something perfectly, and if she can’t do it perfectly, she’ll put it off until the day she can… only that day never comes. Meanwhile, she gets further and further behind, until it (whatever IT is) becomes this huge and daunting task that she can’t possibly ever find the time to do perfectly. Kind of like leaving the dishes to pile up and pile up until it takes you a couple of hours to wash them all. I don’t do this… I wash as I go, and certainly after every meal. I don’t understand why I can’t be more this way with financial tasks.

I am attempting to be real on this blog, so I’ll just go ahead and confess: I am now almost 7 months behind on our expense reports. And the deadline for filing our taxes is looming in front of us and causing me a lot of stress because of how far behind I am. I am not organized AT ALL in this area right now. I haven’t established the systems to get and keep myself organized and on top of things.

Why do I DO this to myself?

This is not an excuse, but I don’t feel like I have the know-how or the right tools to do this well and efficiently. When we went through all our missions training (which was fairly extensive), we received almost no training related to finances. There was a little advice on fundraising and setting a budget, but nothing on accounting for your expenditures on the field, making financial reports to your sponsoring church, etc. I sometimes feel as though I’m bumbling around in the dark. I try out different programs, apps, websites. I design my own templates for things like expense reports and then I wonder if I’m trying to reinvent the wheel. Mission organizations, please, please, give your people practical training in finances, not just in how they raise their money, but in how they spend and account for it! This is probably just as important as training in cultural awareness, language learning, and spiritual preparedness.

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So, the other day, I just got mad. There were piles of receipts stashed in about five different places all over the house, and I was so tired of looking at them, and so angry with myself for letting it come to this. I gathered them up and sorted them by month and filed them in this little box. And then I sat down and made a “financial to-do list” — all the tasks related to finances that I need to do to be truly “caught up. Breaking the ginormous task down into smaller, more manageable ones. It’s a long list, but if I can manage to do at least one thing per day over the next two weeks, I should be caught up.

And when I’m caught up, I’m going to celebrate by drinking my last Dr. Pepper!

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We’re Debt Free!

Yesterday, I finally paid off our credit card, so we are entering the new year both debt free AND with our monthly budget fully funded! Well, I guess I should qualify that statement by saying we are debt free except for Rusty’s student loans. We’ll be paying on those for a few years yet — ha! But FREE of consumer debt — what a great feeling!

Our attempt to rid ourselves of credit card debt has taken many years and been interrupted many times — by international moves, by a dying parent who needed us, by unemployment, by grad school, by preparations for mission work, and most recently by nearly two years spent in Portugal, where not only were we operating under-budget the entire time, but where our buying power was severely decreased by a weak dollar. Through the years, there were times when, not only were we not making any forward progress on paying down our debt, but we were actually going backwards!

Now that we are free of credit card debt and fully funded, we can start putting money aside each month for retirement and college savings. It seems like these are the last two items to get funded in a missionary budget because they are not immediate or daily needs. I’m so thankful that attitudes as to the necessity of these two things for missionaries and their families are changing these days, especially for long-term or career missionaries.

I told Rusty recently that it’s so nice to not have to constantly worry about money, to not have to do the “juggling act” with the finances each month because there’s never enough to go around. It’s also nice to know that there is money being laid aside for the future, for both us and our kids. Although I truly believe that Christians should find their security in Christ and not in their bank accounts, I also believe there is biblical wisdom in saving for a rainy day.