True confessions time. Budgeting is not my strong suit. If you’ve known me for more than five minutes and/or you have any ability to observe or discern, you’ll have guessed that already, because structure in general is not my strong suit. I’m not into schedules or spreadsheets or files or anything like that. When talking about what I do every day, I like to use words like “rhythm” and “flow” and “pattern.” I don’t typically pay my bills the same day every month (although most of them are on auto-pay). And until recently, I didn’t have a good idea of how much I was spending a month on various things. Sure, my mortgage payment’s always the same, and my condo fees, but if you had asked me how much I spent per month on gas or groceries or necessities, I could have given you a vague ballpark range, but nothing specific.
Recently I decided that it was probably a good idea to cut that out. So I got a little free software (which I don’t like AT ALL; totally switching to something else if anyone has any suggestions) and downloaded a file from my bank and got a bit of a shock. I was spending at least a hundred dollars more a month on groceries and eating out than I’d thought, and a couple other categories were ten or fifteen percent more than I would have estimated.
Now, this might seem unrelated but it’s not. I’ve also been going over in my mind a saying about food that I love: You either spend money on food or you spend money on the doctor. I’m not really willing to cut back on groceries in the traditional way — buying cheaper meat, eating more white foods and grains, etc. — because I’m convinced that doing so is penny wise and pound foolish. What’s an extra fifty bucks a month for groceries compared to thousands of dollars in medical bills that could have been avoided if I’d been more careful about what I put in my body?
I think when we talk about stewardship we typically think of money first — and don’t get me wrong, it’s important! I certainly need to be more creative about adjusting my budget to enable me to be more generous, and I absolutely need to cultivate cheerful giving rather than giving out of duty or guilt. But giving generously is only part of the picture. I think stewardship is also about making sure that we can continue to be generous for many years to come, generous with our lives and work and ministry as well as with our money, and unfortunately too many Christians forget that. I forget it all the time. I forget that this body is the only one I get in this life, and how I care for it matters. I want to be an 80-year-old woman who can still take walks on a beautiful day, and who can counsel and encourage younger women, who can open her home to others and help them financially too, and who reads and writes and appreciates beauty and is still strong and healthy. I realize that I can’t control all the factors that play into that, but I can control some of them.
So I’m scheming. I’m figuring out how I can re-work my spending to enable me to be generous, and at the same time maintain a lifestyle that will allow me to keep on being generous for many decades to come, Lord willing.