Money Matters

Derek Ouellette —  January 15, 2011

“Money” is not a subject I broach often. In fact I don’t like to talk about it much at all. I never write on the subject of tithing unless it is to dispel certain misconceptions about “what the bible really teaches about tithing”. But even there I do this very rarely because the tithe is a sacred cow to so many who take it for granted that the bible teaches it in the way it is commonly practiced today. I only step up when I see people getting abused by this church practice. I’m on the council of my church where, like any church council I suppose, the subject of money seems to dominate the agenda. I loathe that part of our meetings and for the most part remain silent.

Today I want to talk about money. The reason is because as of late, the subject of “money” has become something I do like to talk about. Not because I have more of it. In fact, most often the words out of my mouth are, “I don’t think I can afford that”, when asked to do something, buy something or go somewhere. But our (my wife and I) lives have been transformed in recent years. You might say that, while yes we still do not have much money, we are however no longer “slave to the lender”, and that is exciting!

I grew up in a home where my mom was very honest to us. When she said, “I have no money”, she meant it literally; there was absolutely no money to her name. If she said, “I have a $20”, that is what she had. My parents lived paycheck to paycheck by paying bills (if we could) and blowing the leftovers (if ever there were any).

My wife was more responsible with money then I was when we were engaged. But that’s because her parents typically lived within their means. Still, no one taught her how to handle money and her father typically lives on a line of credit and sees that as a normal thing, even expecting us to do the same and finding it odd that we don’t want to.

When we got married, her lack of money handling mixed with my training of, if you have it, it’s there to be used, made of a disastrous first year of marriage.

Then I discovered Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover book. I read it and thought it could change our lives. Foolishly I jumped into “gazelle intensity” and sold my guitar to begin my “debt snowball” before my wife was on board. The result is that we both lost something of sentimental value (I used that guitar to sing her the wedding song I wrote on our wedding day), we cannot get it back and it did nothing to further our financial freedom.

Today she confesses that the reason she did not want to do the Total Money Makeover with me back when I first presented it to her was because of pride and control. First she did not want to admit that we needed help, and second she didn’t want someone else telling her how to handle our money. I have found this to be a common reaction whenever I broach the subject of money and suggest Dave Ramsey.

Eventually we both got on board with Dave’s program and took the course, Financial Peace University. While we have not kept to Dave’s ideals in every detail (recently we purchased a new car without paying cash, something Dave would not approve of), on a whole this decision has literally changed our lives. Last year we managed to pay off over $14,000.00 in debts and we bought a used car with cash ($2,000.00). What makes that number even more amazing is that just prior to taking Dave’s course we were still living paycheck to paycheck and struggling to get ahead even a little.

The point of writing this post is not to reflect on how much money I have (I don’t have much!) nor to boast on how much I have paid off (but I am proud and amazed at the fact). I’ve written this post because of the real change that has taken place inside of me. A change that involves my thinking process.

Someone recently said to me that every time they talk to someone who has taken the Dave Ramsey course, they never seem to have any money. It baffled this person, “does the course work? Does it not? I don’t know. But no one who takes it seems to have any money.”

I’m afraid my friend misses the point, as my wife did when I first broached the subject with her, as I would have if someone had made the suggestion to me four years ago. We judge whether or not something works based on a monetary value. What kind of results are you looking for?

If you are looking for money, look elsewhere; because you have missed the point. If you are looking for freedom, however, then let’s talk. Look for money and you’ll find bondage, look for freedom and you’ll find money. If my wife and I stopped at this moment to look for freedom, we would find that we have lots of money. Money we have been using to get out of debt. But we would also find that before long that money would be gone and we would still be in bondage. However, if we continue to use our money to press for freedom, if – to quote Dave – “we told our money where to go instead of allowing our money to tell us where to go”, we would eventually find freedom and when that happens we’ll have lots of money and no place to go but up.

So what kind of results are you looking for? For my wife and I, searching for financial peace has changed the way we think. I purchased a Tim Horton’s travel mug for $4.00 because I drink a cup of coffee on my way to work every day (it’s in the budget). When you first buy the mug your first coffee is free, thus the mug really only cost me $2.50. Plus, because I use the mug every day when I go through the drive thru they take 10 cents off the price of the coffee. Before long the coffee has paid for itself and I keep my car clean (the paper cups always leak). This way of thinking would have never occurred to me before.

I am still as honest as ever when it comes to money, just like my mom was. But I have redefined terms. You’ll recall that when my mom said she had no money, it meant that her bank account had run dry. For me, to say that I have no money does not mean that my bank account has run dry; it means that I have no money to spend. It means that this thing, event, whatever, is not in the budget. It means that I had to prioritize and set an agenda and those shoes I want are going to have to wait a few weeks. It also happens to mean that if I come across someone in dire straits, a sheer desperate situation, to say that “I have no money right now” to other things actually means, “here, let me help you out.” It just takes a little adjusting of the budget.

And what is one of the most delightfully joyful things of this whole life changing process my wife and I are doing right now with all of its menial and temporary sacrifices? It is the knowledge that one day our kids will not have to struggle for food and will not have to worry about having a good education and will not be dependent upon the system in any way and will not be in bondage to the lender. That their children will be able to play all of the sports they can and also get a good education. That my wife and I are readjusting the settings on our lives so that we are no longer in financial cruise control which may alter the course of our family for generations to come and, let’s not forget that when this happens, we are in a better position to move forward the Kingdom of God and to help those around us in need when we ourselves are no longer there.

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Derek Ouellette

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a husband, new dad, speaker, writer, christian. see my profile here.