Kris Mares

Just a woman trying to love Jesus and others a little bit more…

Money vs. Health: my struggle April 28, 2016

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 2:46 pm
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We used to belong to a gym. Yep, you heard that right. Used to. We had a family membership to the local Y. For a time, we went regularly, particularly the kids and I. But then life got busier, time got more occupied and the Y was less frequented. So, in an effort to save money and use our resources to pay off some debt (at the time), we didn’t renew our membership.

And my body has paid for it. You see, for every financial decision we make, there are good and bad consequences. No consumer debt = good. No exercise = bad. When we were members at the gym, I at least tried to go and “get my money out of it.” Tried. But then, I just didn’t.

Now, Racer and I have talked about needing to re-join the Y. But I’m having a hard time justifying the money for a family membership when we still are trying to build our emergency fund. We have other financial goals that those fees would go toward.

But in a physical earlier this year, my doctor and I agreed that I need to move my body. While my health “numbers” are ok, the direction of my health is going the wrong way.

So, save money or go to the gym?

So what’s a girl to do?

The answer really came to me in stages. Walking was a good start. Then my health insurance sent home pedometers with a cash earning program for reaching certain step goals. Then a morning devotion focused on the theme of “move” really hit my heart.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139.14

Yes! But if I am wonderfully made, how is my physical state living that out? Am I honoring God’s careful creation of me? I want to do that, thus I need to care for my physical self.

So, then the wrestle comes. How do I manage my money, my time and my physical self in a way that is pleasing to God and still keeps me on track for the goals our family has? How do I balance the need for exercise with the need to save money?

You see, it’s not just the gym membership that costs, but it’s also the gas to drive there as there is no location that is convenient. So how do I find something low-cost, that fits into my schedule and is convenient. I mean, why can’t I have it all?

Well, God helped. Just a week later, in my morning devotion, the theme was “walking.” Walking with God, walking God’s path for me in life, walking in God’s presence.

12998453_1136367073075192_6725095061062340834_nSo, I’m walking. Walking with friends. Walking in the morning on the days I drop kids off at school. Walking. And while I walk, I have my ear buds in, listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast and True Stewardship podcast (and a few others) so that I can also stay motivated on my financial journey! Win win right?!

I also found a couple of free apps that lead me through a bodyweight style circuit. You know, push ups, jumping jacks, lunges… that type of thing. Totally free and does all the timing and instructions for me. So that’s good too.

So, gym membership money gets to stay reallocated to savings goals AND I’ve found a way to get in free exercise. And for accountability, I text my dear friend for encouragement.

You may have a conflict in goals – money vs. ?? Maybe its money vs. quality time with your spouse. Maybe it’s money vs. “making memories” with your children. Maybe it’s money vs. a need for relaxation. Each decision we make has consequences.

Perhaps, though, there is another way. Perhaps, there is a way to do both. Maybe not how you imagined, but still a way. Think creatively. Think outside the “normal” box. Ask God for help. It may come in pieces, but it will come.

I’d love your encouragement and ideas for other “free” ways to exercise! Please share your struggle, journey or thoughts in the comments below.

Also, remember to sign-up to join me for a morning make-over (affiliate link) starting May 1st!

 

Budgets are a funny thing October 8, 2015

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 6:24 am
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As Racer and I teach Financial Peace University, we’re learning a lot. Yes, we’re learning about God’s ways of handling money, but we’re also learning much about ourselves. And that’s why a budget is such a funny thing.

As we work out our budget together, we’re learning about our own styles. I’m a spending nerd. Racer is a saving free-spirit. I like to spend, but make sure everything lines up, the numbers match, we have a plan and every penny is accounted for (so I can spend them). Racer is laid-back, doesn’t like to be boxed into a plan, wants freedom, but saves and doesn’t need to spend every dollar (except at gift-giving times).

And as we know these things about ourselves, we can know more about the other too. Self-awareness allows us to be other-aware. And being other-aware makes our relationship stronger. We communicate better, we give the other the space that s/he needs, we understand the space the other exists within.

And making and tracking a budget together (not just me or not just him, but us, together), has caused us to be more honest together. I can no longer hide the coffee or impromptu lunch conversation. I have to be accountable for my time and my spending. Racer can no longer let his travel help him ignore some of the home repair needs and long-term family goals. Our budget and money management is no longer solely on my shoulders and that is a good thing.

You know the funniest thing about budgeting together? It’s helped us dream together. When we have to talk about money for now together, we get to ask the question “Why?” together. Why are we paying off debt? Why are we giving? Why are we saving? Why are we prioritizing wants in this way? Why do we think this need requires more/less of our dollars? Asking “Why?” together has helped us think bigger picture. We get to look past the frustration of today and consider what tomorrow might be able to look like. And doing so helps us change our behavior today so that we can make that dream for tomorrow together.

Realizing that, made budgeting a whole lot less painful.

Try it sometime. Try sitting down with your spouse – or a trusted friend if you are single – and make a budget out. We use Every Dollar (it’s free and super easy to set up online and then to track spending on our phone with the free app). It’ll take a few months to really get the hang of it, but try it! Dream while you do it! What if you didn’t have those debt payments? Why save for an emergency? What could retirement look like if I save more? Why am I giving this amount – what if I could give more?

Yes, if we let them prompt our dreams, budgets are a funny thing.

 

Crowding out Contentment September 10, 2015

Filed under: Money — Kris @ 7:09 am
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Our family has quite a financial journey. We’ve lived above our means (and incurred to debt to prove it) and we’ve lived below our means and we’ve fed our children with government assistance. We’ve made some good financial choices and we’ve made some bad ones. I’ve learned a LOT through that journey.

On my 32nd birthday, I was pregnant with Climber and we were broke. We received WIC, I wasn’t working, we’d lived in our new state for only 2 months, Racer was working for next to nothing. I knew we couldn’t afford a nice meal out (our family tradition) or a gift. So I asked that as a family we go to a local festival and just walk around, looking at the interesting crafts, seeing the demonstrations, letting kids play on the playground and just being together. At that event, there was a carousel that cost $1 per person to ride. We needed $6. We didn’t have it. We had to tell the kids no.

When we got home, I laid my 8 month preggo self on the floor and cried my eyes out. It was the worst birthday I’ve ever had.

Thankfully, things are much better. Racer’s working at a good place. I’m working. We’re debt free (except our mortgage). We could afford a small, simple vacation. Our closets and cabinets are full.

So why do I still look around at other people and wonder why we don’t have what they do?

And when I do, I think about this passage written by the Apostle Paul:

I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. (Philippians 4:10-12, NRSV)

Racer and I have done a fair job of managing our finances. We’re striving to do better, to be the best stewards we can be of ALL the resources God has given us. But sometimes, that desire for more crowds out contentment. Sometimes, the envy of others crowds out the gratitude. Sometimes, the view of what I don’t have crowds out the view of what I do have.

When that happens, I lose track of what God has done in my life and what God continues to do in my life. When that happens, I lose track of what it means to be content.

You see, we each have a different journey and a different purpose. Our resources are a part of that journey and that purpose. And we can live a life pleasing to God, regardless of the “stuff” we have. Contentment is not about happiness or even finding joy in the midst of life’s circumstances.

Contentment is about knowing that what ever I have (or don’t have), that whatever I do (or don’t do), that whatever I save (or spend), that the Lord’s grace is sufficient for me (2 Corinthians 12:9).

So what’s the secret of contentment?

Grace.

It’s that simple and that hard.

 

Not Buying It! August 13, 2015

In my search for contentment and good stewardship, I’m always on the lookout for people who have pursued simplicity and less consumerism. When I was perusing the shelves of my local library (one way I can read voraciously without spending), I saw this book and picked it up on a whim.

Immediately, I was drawn to the idea of not buying things for a year. I would love to be able to do just that, so I was hoping that I would be inspired. What I found, was a woman journeying in life who shared an honest assessment of her struggle to not buy things, her deep desire to do good for the planet, for the poor worker, for the sustainability of the world, yet her desire to just have some nice things. I appreciated her honesty in the struggle to make do with what she had, find a way to spend time with friends that didn’t involve money, and at the same time, learn how to receive gifts from others. When you don’t have money to spend, it’s hard to simply receive.

Over the last several years, our family has drastically reduced our consumption. Partly because we had to and partly because I have a growing committment to my inner “tree-hugger” and living a more sustainable lifestyle. The vast majority of our clothes come from a local consignment store or are hand me downs from family and friends (with the exception of Racer’s work pants and all our tennis shoes) or are freebie t-shirts from events/promotions. We’ve been reducing the amount of stuff we bring in (even asking family to give “experiences” rather than things), reusing what we can in a variety of ways (vases, art projects, turned pants into shorts) and we take a bin of recycling every week.

But somehow, I still get a great longing to buy. To shop. To spend money on shiny objects that promise to make me slimmer, give a smile, and heal my soul in just 5 simple steps. Well, you get the idea. I still have this urge to shop.

Why? Well, I think the best gem of the book came in December. On Christmas Eve, Judith Levine and her significant other were walking and stopped into a religious service. Although she says they are atheists, I think she write something that speaks so loudly to faith: “But I do want something that religious offer in abundance; the permission to desire wildly, to want the biggest stuff – communion, transcendence, joy, and a freedom that has nothing to do with a choice of checking accounts or E-Z access to anything” (p. 261).

I think there is a void in all of us that is constantly searching for something more. Levine doesn’t think we need religion to find it. I think she’s right there. But we disagree in how we do fill that void, that desire for something bigger than ourselves. You see shopping can’t fill it. Friendship can’t fill it. Marriage can’t fill it. Children can’t fill it. Social activism can’t fill it. Even a life of being content with what you have can’t really fill it.

Only Jesus Christ can fill that void in our souls that we long to have filled.

That, my friends, doesn’t cost a thing.

We simply have to learn how to receive.

And that can be harder than not buying it.

 

2015 Goals – Mid-year reveiw July 30, 2015

Filed under: Me — Kris @ 8:29 am
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At the beginning of this year, I set some goals for myself. I thought about them and talked them over with Racer. Some seem silly, some are more important. I suppose if I set some goals then I really should take time to review them and see how I’m doing right? No point in setting goals if I’m not actually going to hold myself accountable. So, here is 2015 in review so far:

Marriage

  • One date night a month – We’re actually doing well on this one!!
  • Write one love note a month – I think I’m 4 for six so far?

Motherhood

  • Read out loud to the kids one night a week – I’m failing terribly on this one. My intention was to read chapter books to them. We read, but just not like I had intended with this goal. Need to do better.
  • One specific “Love Language” deposit for each kid each month – I’m doing well here except with one of my children. My oldest is working on transitioning out of the nest and our relationship is changing. I need to be more intentional with her.

Ministry

  • Complete Provisional Elder application – Step one of many is done! I have also agree to be a part of a covenant peer group to hold me accountable through this process.
  • Quarterly worship planning – I’m doing better here, but can still improve. I have scripture planned through November.
  • Intentional prayer outreach to families – I took a hiatus for a couple of months while I finished graduate school, but am now back at it! I love being intentional about reaching out to intentionally pray for the needs of families.

Money

  • Create a written budget each month – In June, we started using Every Dollar and that has made budgeting much easier!
  • Save one full month of expenses – We are 20% of the way there. With graduation expenses, some car repairs and other life stuff, the progress is slow.
  • Legacy Binder – We have one started from years ago, but it needs an overhaul. I’ve not worked on this area at all. This goal may have to be postponed to next year.

Me

  • Crochet 5 blankets – I’ve done one, but need to get on the ball!
  • Read 1 biography a month – I’m reading, just not biographies. I think this goal will be dropped and reconsidered for next year. It has just ended up not being a priority.
  • Write one letter a month – I’ve been doing this. It’s harder than you think!
  • Get down to 175 lbs – This has been tricky. I’ve only this month been able to begin focus on this goal. 4 down and lots to go.

I’m going to start planning “Goal Time” into my week. Some things I need to be much more intentional about. How are you doing on your goals for this year? Comment below and let me know!

 

Marriage and Money January 24, 2011

Those are two words that often start a fight. Most marriage fights are over money. I’ve experienced that kind of fight plenty of times. I used to be a spender. Big time spender. Even when I was a kid. My mom and dad like to tell a funny story about when I went shopping for pom pon camp and wanted to buy something like 20 pair of underwear for a 5 day camp. So yeah, I was a spender.

Back in early 2007, though, Racer and I went through a small group curriculum at our church. The Biblical Financial Study from Crown Financial Ministries was exactly what we needed to start thinking about money in the same way. We learned what the Bible said about money and how to use it to bring glory to God. As a married couple, we were faithful in tithing, but not in how we used the rest of our money.

Part of the reason Racer and I argue about money is because we grew up so differently in our families. Our parents were and still are very different in how they view and handle finances. Different upbringing and life learning led us to very different ways of wanting to handle finances. Going through the Crown Financial study allowed us to finally have the same foundation from which to work. We were finally on the same page and ready to move forward. The arguments lessened.

While we are grateful for that foundational knowledge, Racer and I needed some more practical financial information to use that still had a biblical basis. Dave Ramsey had what we were looking for. As a Christian, we know that he holds a Biblical view of money management and use. He also had the practical “how to” kinds of information that we needed. Dave’s 7 Baby Steps helped us get a plan together. We kind of had it and knew what to do, but having someone else lay that out affirmed what direction to go. It also helps eliminate the argument because we have both agreed to “work the plan” so to speak. The arguments lessened.

We also realize that it’s not really our money. It’s given to us to use and get what we need for our family. In those discussions of need, Racer and I have had to come to terms with what our “wants” versus our “needs” are. Most things are wants. Sure we need transportation, but the kind is mostly a want. (BTW, I will disagree with DR here and say that sometimes, it is necessary to get a loan to purchase a vehicle. In an ideal situation, people would have enough saved up to pay cash for what they need/want. For most people, the situation is not ideal. Because of family situations, we have to have at least one vehicle that is very reliable. Thus a loan on a “new to us” car was born.) Sure we need clothes, but where they come from and how many is a want. Sure we need food, but steak is a want. I think you get the picture. The arguments lessened.

Sure we’ve had setbacks. Lots of them. Bouts of unemployment are no fun. Roofing repairs, hitting a “cy-hoe-ty,” ice storms, babies… all these and more put a hit in the budget and set back financial plans. The good thing is, we know what to do. Go back to step one and start all over. The arguments lessened.

Racer and I still argue. We even still argue about money. It’s a LOT less than it used to be though. We both have a better understanding of where WE want to be – not where I want to be, or where he wants to be, but where WE want to be. Not all of our decisions are right. Looking back we’ve made plenty of bad ones that we are still paying for. Not every future decision will be right either, but what is important is that we are learning. We are learning together. Working through money issues has made our marriage better. So many divorces happen over money. For us though, money (or lack thereof) has made us stronger. And really, it’s not the money, it’s God’s work in us through the use of money. For God’s work, I am eternally grateful.

As the first month of a new year, and new budgets, comes to a close, I for one am looking forward. I’m excited to see our debt go down and our giving go up. I’m excited to see how “God Math” will work in our lives this year.

 

 
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