*Please note: Everything I share in this article is based on biblical principles. However, many of my applications of them, or examples, are just my personal application. The examples I use may look different for you, or you may choose differently before God.
One of the greatest challenges and stresses on a father and husband’s life are all the never-ending, financial challenges and needs that are ever-present, and often surprising us out of nowhere, as a family man. As an example, the summer of 2006 my furnace, water heater and AC all went out in the house at the same time! I know first hand what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck for years. I know first hand what is it like to have no job for months, with no money at all, no safety net, no family to call on, no credit to use, and on top of it, have no car. I know first hand what it is like to work for peanuts and live below the poverty level. I know what is like to have no savings, and no health insurance of any kind during the time my wife gave birth to our first 3 children. The things I would like to share with you wonderful men, I have lived, done and used in real life, to successfully raise my 4 children to adulthood, through college, and through all the stresses and strains of life, and to care for a wife who has had, and still does have, very poor health.
I feel a deep and unique kinship to all you fathers and husbands reading this article. My heart is for you, my ministry is for you, my prayers are for you, and with everything I have, I desire to help you survive and succeed, in all that relates to you, your marriage and raising your precious children.
This article is extra long and will be filled with real life, usable, practical, wisdom from God and His word, that sustained me and helped me overcome the great challenges that I had in trying to provide for the financial, material needs and provisions of my family of 6.
First and foremost, let me remind us all that our life is a journey of faith in God, and in the promises of God. All of us, no matter what we do for a living, are holding onto Matthew 6:33, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.”
We are all trying to build our families for God’s purposes. We are all trying to grow in Christ-likeness, and in upright living. Please also keep in mind that for Kathy and I’s 40 years of marriage, we have been a one income family.
Below I will lay out my financial secrets for providing for my family that helped ensure our survival in this crazy world.
This is no joke. God and His promises are our greatest wealth, and assets. I literally pray over and about everything. I bring every need to God, I ask him to provide it, guide me to it, and show me wisdom to proceed in obtaining it.
Here is a simple, real example. My twin home was built in 1987, in 2012 the roof was 25 years old. We had just been through 7 straight years of devastating health issues with my precious daughter. It had cost a great, great deal of money, out of pocket. A friend looked at my roof and told me it needed to be replaced soon. I did not have the $6000 dollars to replace it. I was determined not to borrow it. So, every single day, I prayed, “Lord, please bring a big hail storm and destroy my roof. In September of 2013, we had a massive hail storm. It slashed from north to south, I live in the south side twin home. The storm was so bad, the hail so destructive, that the lady who lives in the north side attached to me, had what looked like bullet holes in her aluminum siding. My siding had no damage at all. BUT IT RUINED MY ROOF!! THANK YOU, GOD!
In addition to this, I had pipes in my house that are now illegal, and they would spring little pinhole leaks, very dangerous, and not fixable long term. This storm provided enough money from insurance that a new $6000 dollar roof was put on and enough left for $2000 dollars worth of all new Pex pipes in my house!! God, prayer, and His promises are my greatest asset. I kid you not.
I did not grow up understanding money well at all. I loved to work, then I would spend what I made. I had never even heard of a budget. Then I married and I was very motivated in my love for Kathy and my responsibilities as her husband. Still, life threw us some very difficult circumstances.
I really didn’t have money to even work with. I did, however, get a simple 6 column analysis pad and I wrote the month and year on each page. Then I made a simple budget. I wrote down rent, food, gas, electric, phone, water, and so on. I wrote down what each expense was on the left column, and I wrote what I actually brought home in income on the bottom right, which let me know what I had to work with. I then kept track of each expense, as the month progressed, looking at it often, so I knew right where we were at. Kathy and I had to learn to stay within that budget, and I tell you, that was not an easy discipline to learn. It often led to some of our most challenging, stressful debates. The stress was real, as we had little to work with. It is a habit I still do to this day, at 62 years old. We must all learn to say no to things that really, truly are not essential, or are not true needs but only wants. Which leads to my next secret.
Do you see that truth?! It is not godliness alone that is a great gain, but godliness with contentment. This quality, this life attribute, contentment, is vital, and deeply enriching and in very short supply in America today, even among Christians. But it has brought great gain to me and Kathy. I will give you some examples, and how this helps us succeed in the things we need.
For the first 17 years of married life, Kathy and I only had one vehicle. We just did not have the money for another. We were not trying to be super spiritual. Two would have been very handy. We could not afford it. Eventually, I was able to buy a 4 speed, 1983 Honda Civic for $650 bucks.
A few years ago, I needed to find another second car. I was praying for the Lord to provide, for the Lord to bless me. Craigslist is a godly family man’s best friend, besides God. I have a strategy I will pass on to all of you men. It maximizes value, minimizes risk. Car payments are a killer, so I avoid them like the plague! So, I only look at Hondas and Toyotas. I used to be in the car business, and through their proven track record over the last 20 years, they are among the best cars made, and very reliable, if properly cared for. They make a great used car value.
I went to Craigslist and looked only at Honda Civic 5 speeds, as that was what I believed would suit my needs, and they get great gas mileage which in turn puts money in my pocket as I spend less to get around. I only look at cars the owner tells about their maintenance on and have some records. Whatever recent work they have done on the car is money I will not have to spend for some time on those important things on the car. Walla! I found a 1999 Honda Civic 4dr., 5 speed, new timing belt, water pump, tires, brakes, new clutch, and a few other important items. No rust, silver, the nicest car I have ever driven, for $1950. I still drive it today, it averages almost 40 mph, and because for a time I was paid mileage on out of town trips, I have made a total of $4200 back on the car, paying for it, and the needed maintenance of it, and put some in the bank. Not many 62-year-old men are willing to drive a little 20-year-old car. I have perspective. It has features on it that my parent’s cars never had. Godliness with contentment. Know this, most Toyotas or Hondas with 100,000-150,000 miles on them will go at least to 250,000 or more miles, very reliable and easily maintained if you care for them.
My wife drives a 2000 Toyota Sienna van, I paid approx. $5000 with 107,000 miles for, 6 years ago. I plan to have it another 4-6 years and drive to at least 250,000-300,000. The insurance is very inexpensive on these two vehicles, as well as the license tab renewal each year.
The computer I am writing on right now, the tower/hard drive was from a company that upgraded, so a guy gave me this one, all cleaned up, the fastest I have ever had. The flat screen was going to be thrown away and it is the nicest computer/screen I have ever had. The cordless phone I use in my office is almost 15 years old but serves my purposes very, very well. I could go on, but I hope you get the idea.
If I could put 3 things into every town in America, it would be Jesus, biblical truth and wisdom, and ALDI! I want you to imagine for a moment you are driving down the road to get gas for your car. On one corner is a Speedway station selling gas for $2.20 a gallon. Across the street is a BP station selling gas for $1.35 per gallon. Which one would you get your gas at!? That is the approximate difference you will save by shopping for most food and paper items at ALDI for your family.
Hear me now, do as you want, but food is fuel and nutrients. The vast majority of Americans consume way more calories/fuel than they need or their body can use each day. Three things happen as a result: they waste a lot of money, they put on unhealthy weight, and it is detrimental to their health, which will cost them more money.
I do all the shopping in our family and have for years because my wife’s health and back are very difficult, so lifting is not easy for her. So when I say, I know what I am talking about, I know what I am talking about. Americans have an unhealthy love affair with food. We are extremely extravagant, spoiled, and indulgent. You will find that a store like ALDI, offers some very, very great prices on quality foods, many organics, that are kind of mind-blowing, I know because I have literally compared their prices to Target, Wal-Mart, and in many cases Costco. I do get some things at Costco that are great values: eggs, greek yogurt in tubs, a tub of coconut oil, a big bag of blueberries, etc., and a few other items at Trader Joe’s. All 3 of these are great, great values.
Kathy and I eat very nutritious, but also very basic meals, and this helps our food budget a great, great deal. We spend very little on snack foods or on soft drinks. It helps our budget and our health! Please note, I realize that a mother with children at home certainly would make more variety in meals than Kathy and I do as empty nesters.
My daughter loves ALDI diapers for her child, tremendous savings, especially when this is literally money you are throwing down the toilet anyway, might as well flush less down!
This is a huge expense in most American budgets, and it is by and large a waste of your money. It is not truly a need. Please don’t get me wrong, have a nice date with your wife out to eat, take your kids once in a while out for an ice cream cone, or pizza, but don’t let it become the expensive habit that it is for so many Americans who are literally eating away their financial future.
I am a hair guy. I really am. You can tell by my picture, I care about hair. For years I had a good barber friend cut my hair as my hair was a hard cut to do right. He was very reasonable. I watched him do it carefully. Then I bought the identical professional cutters, not the cheap kind from Target. They were $90 dollar Andis Mastercuts off the internet. I bought them years ago and I cut my hair every 7 days which makes it very easy to cut and manage. Cuts today are $15-30 a haircut. I cut my two boys hair for years and with those great haircuts, they each got a wonderful, beautiful girl to say yes!!! Thank you very much! For you ladies, it is worth checking out a good cosmetology school near you. They usually have great prices on haircuts for ladies and for coloring your hair. But I realize that is a delicate subject!
I know, you think I am crazy. Guys, I am 62, if can I do it, so can you. I bought a $20 dollar jack, a $6 dollar jack stand, and a $2 dollar basting pan from Wal-Mart. My wrenches?! You guessed it, ALDI, a full set, $6 bucks. Many people spend $32 dollars every 3 months for an oil change. I used to be in the auto parts business. I know about oil and stuff. However, I was not aware until some years ago, as I researched oil, how effective full synthetic Mobil One 15000-mile oil really was. So, approx. once a year, for a total of $40 bucks for oil and filter, I change it myself. I throw the old oil away free at O’Rielly’s auto parts!
If you are about 30 years old, this will cost between $25 -$66 per month. The entire purpose of this policy is to ensure that if you were to die or be killed in some freak accident, or sudden illness, your wife and kids will have what they need, and it gives your precious wife options. I also bought a $250k policy for Kathy years ago. Today I have lowered that amount to $70k.
In my case, I bought a half million dollar policy 30 years ago, so if I died, Kathy, would not have had to go to work but could continue home educating our children, and finish what we started together. Today, it would probably take a million term life policy. However, men, don’t let this stop you, from getting something. If you can only afford $250k, get it. $500k, get it. Then in time, simply get a higher amount. Of course, the advantage of going for a higher amount at a younger age is you can purchase that higher amount for a longer period of time for less money. Just don’t put this off!!
I can’t tell you what a huge advantage this is. It increases the purchasing power of every dollar and makes your dollar go so much farther. Literally, you have more money when you buy used stuff. Places like Goodwill and Craigslist are a tremendous asset to you. Used kids clothes will save you so, so much money. Almost everything in my home was bought used. Very few people would even know it.
I have many wise friends. I have observed a variety of strategies up close and personal. All of these have strengths and can be advantageous. The important thing in this matter is, know yourself well. What will work best for you?
Here is what I mean. I am not a guy who had time to take care of a rental property. I was extremely busy in Christian work. I don’t enjoy fixing up houses. I don’t have those life skills, and they would take a great deal of time for me to learn. Also, in truth, with my personality and temperament, many of them just create stress for me. I am good at shoveling snow, mowing the lawn, and other odds and ends. But rental property is not me.
House with the land. Land can be a great asset. I have known many over the years, who stretched themselves to get into a house with land, at the time it was a struggle, but as the years went by, it greatly increased in value and became for them a wonderful long term savings and investment plan, when in later years they sold some or all and downsized. Again, ask yourself, are you a landman? There is much to care for in a house and land. There will be depending on where you live, stuff that has to get done and sudden expenses that come up. It can be stressful, but so can owning any house. Count the cost wisely.
401k. This was the route I chose. I could only start out very, very small, in my mid-30’s. I couldn’t even take advantage of all the matching funds. However, as time went on, I eventually put a large portion a month in and got all the matching dollars. For me, it fit me well and was who I am. I pray over it every day, asking God to bless it, to grow it, and it has grown much from where I started. I still pray over it every single day. As of today, Jan. 2019, my 401k is 12 times larger than it was in Jan. 2003.
When I was a young father, I kid you not, I had no money to save, none. There was nothing. It was not until my mid-30’s early 40’s, that I had any monthly margin to save money. I just kept trying, and trying, and trying. I eventually built up a $1000 fund, then $2000, then $5000, then eventually 3-4 months of expenses. It was always a fight, and one I still keep fighting today. Find ways to cut corners on other things so you can save. Examples: don’t eat out, take a bag lunch, stop the Starbucks habit, save the money instead. Shop at ALDI more, save the money you save shopping there. Get rid of car payments, buying a reliable used car, and save the car payment instead. Raise the deductible on your auto insurance. Get Ting for your mobile phone plan instead of T-Mobile, Verizon, or other expensive plans. There are so many little things you can do. Stop buying lots of desserts and save the dessert money instead.
I have seen it first hand. God really does reward the generous, giving person. It is not the large amount that you may or may not be able to give, but it can be the small things you give. I believe generosity starts at home, and I found that God rewarded my generosity with my wife, or my kids, or others close to me. I once heard of a dear Christian couple in my church that the husband had lost his job. They had 4 kids. The wife was looking to find a way to save. She needed a Kitchen Aid mixer as she wanted to make her own bread. Someone called me to see if I had an old one. I did not. I went to Target and bought them a brand new white one, and drove it to there home to surprise them. God has blessed me 10 times over for that mixer alone.
I know this seems funny and dumb. What I am really saying? Maintenance saves you lots of money! I bought our first house when I was 43. The first time in my life I had an automatic garage door opener. The large double garage door was made of that heavy wood type paneling. It was super heavy. The lower left part of the garage door was kind of coming undone. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I have to get a new one.” I bought a strip of metal with holes in it, used it as a brace and screwed it to the back of the door to hold the panel in place. Then, approx. every 4 months, to make the springs, rollers, hinges, and motor last longer, I just spayed, either silicone spray, or white lithium grease on all the moving parts. Just last month I finally replaced the door. The guy who replaced it said, “I am amazed you got 30 years out of this particular door and motor.” There are many applications of this principle around your house and life. Just do the little things, they put money in your pocket.
Here is a funny one. I love my bullet shower head. I paid $6 bucks for it, 15 years ago, it gives a great firm shower. I don’t ever want to replace it. I have even looked and it seems no one sells this one anymore. So my trick!? Every several months, I take it off, put it in a cup with white vinegar for about 2 hours, and it is brand spanking new, all the time. The vinegar removes all the calcium and residue!!
Please know I say this with a lot of compassion in my heart. Things happen in life sometimes we have no control over, and bam, we need money fast. Might be health, might be dental, may be a very expensive car repair, or something vital in the home has to be repaired or replaced.
When I first moved here to start churches and pastor, I made very little, the car we had, went kaput. I had not a dime to my name. I had no options, no funds, I had to get a car. I found a used one at a dealership and had to get their auto loan. I bit the bullet, I hated it very much, but it was what it was. However, I made a plan and found a way to avoid that in the future.
I can tell you, from my experience and looking every single day at Craigslist, at only private seller vehicles, used Toyotas, Sienna vans, or Highlanders, or Honda Civics or Honda Odysseys, or Honda CRVS, you will really never have to spend more than $5-6000 for a very reliable family vehicle, if you didn’t want to. It is amazing. One of the great things about Americans!?? They get tired and discontent with stuff very easily!! The wise Christian makes the most of that!
I have one credit card that I use only for travel when I know I am getting reimbursed. I pay it at the end of each month. I seldom use it.
This principle helps to make your financial decisions much easier. First, I ask, “Do we really, really need it? Can we, or the kids live without it?” Secondly, “Will it keep us living below our stream of income?”
A couple of simple examples. About 15 years ago, our stove went completely kaput! The fridge fried, and the dishwasher also, all about the same time. Someone had given us $1200 dollars for our 25th wedding anniversary. I thought this would make great use of those funds. We truly needed the appliances. They were true needs, not wants, though, in time, we lived without a working dishwasher for years. I wanted to get all 3 appliances for approx. $1200. I wanted them delivered and put in so I would not accidentally get a leaking dishwasher and ruin the floors and I wanted someone to take all the old ones at no charge.
I went to an appliance store and told the saleslady what I wanted and for how much money. She said she would try. She then walked me over to an $800 dollar stove/oven. She began her pitch. I gently interrupted, and said, “May I ask a question?” “Yes”, she said. She had just told us they don’t make appliance like they use to and that the new ones last about 10-12 years. I said, “This $800 dollar stove, will it cook a baked potato at 350 degrees better or faster than the white stove over there for $299?” She looked at me real funny, then said, “Well, no it won’t.” “Will it last a lot longer?” She said no. I then said, “So why would I want an $800 dollar stove?” To which she said, literally, “Sir, I have been selling appliances for 20 years and no one has ever asked that question”. I know I am an odd duck. However, I walked out of there with all 3 appliances for 1275, delivered and installed. I bought only what was needed.
When I went to buy our first house in Jan. 2000, my mortgage guy said, “Mark, in my 25 years of loaning money, and credit checks, you have one of the top credit scores I have ever seen. You can qualify for a $300,000 dollar loan.” To which I said, “Why would I want to do that? I don’t need a house like that?” He looked at me strangely and said, “But you can qualify.” To which I said, “What if the housing market crashes, and I get upside down in the house?” To which he said, “Very unlikely.” Well, we know how that worked out, just a few years later, major crash. I bought what I knew I would need for Kathy and me for the next 30-40 years, knowing that one at a time, my kids would be moving out in a matter of several years, so 1460 sq. feet was all I needed.
Many of you get this through work in some way. However, if you don’t, and you are really struggling, I would like to suggest you look into Christian Healthcare Ministries. My daughter and her husband had this with the birth of their little girl. CHM covered all of the approx. $23,000 dollar bill. It was astounding. They pay approx. $300 per month, and another $50 every 3 months. It is worth your time to look. Yes, they are Obama Care approved.
Here is what we did with all 4 of our children. As you may know by now, I am an enthusiastic believer and proponent of home education. Eventually, I will write about that. In the state of Minnesota, there is a law, it is called post-secondary enrollment options, or PSEO. Here is basically how it works: for any junior or senior in high school who wants to go to get their freshman and sophomore years of college done, instead of staying in high school, you can enroll in a college full time, at no charge to you if you do well on their entrance testing. I am also a believer that most high schools are a waste of time when you can get a 2-year degree, 2 years of college or tech degree, for free instead, and start your life with no college debt. Or you can decide to finish your 4 years, but only pay for 2 years.
So, at 15 and 16, my oldest two started the Darling Way, by enrolling in Normandale Community College. It worked wonderfully. Yes, it stretched them, challenged them, and was hard work, but they did very well. As did my other two, they eventually went to a couple other community colleges /tech schools. For those who live in states with no PSEO option, have them live at home free and take their first two years of college at a community college/tech college nearby, saving tens of thousands of dollars.
Now, this is very important. Your child must be emotionally ready to handle PSEO. Are they spiritually ready? Dad and Mom, are you prepared to encourage them, stay relationally connected to them, watching carefully over them through the years? Assess this very carefully, so you set them up to succeed and not fail. I have known many parents who started out home educating, then just deciding, “Let’s put them in public school,” without much careful thought, and the kid crashes. Their kids got sucked into the culture, the sinfulness, and they lost that child. Many are still lost today.
I know there are different views on the biblical tithe. For the last almost 35 years, by faith, I have given to God a tenth of my income. I gave a tenth of my income to support Christian work. One way or the other, whether to your local church, or a Christian ministry God puts on your heart, or a missionary or Christian worker God puts on your heart, or in some way divided between all 3, give back to God. He will generously give back to you. I have witnessed it first hand in my own life, and in the lives of hundreds of people, I pastored for years.
Men, it is so vitally important that you communicate money matters with your precious wife. She is your teammate, and it is so important to be on the same page together, to help her see the big picture of the decisions you are feeling led to make. Walk her through things, listen to her concerns and questions. Keep your wife in the loop. Whether through writing an understandable, comprehensive e-mail, then reviewing that with her, or some other effective way. Where there is no vision, no good communication, the family goes wild!!
Lastly, let me comment on this, but only briefly. Some have asked me through the years, “Mark, what about my wife having a home-based business?” I know some who have done this effectively, in a way that did not interfere or was not detrimental to their role as wife, mother, or teacher at home with the kids. As long as that remains the case, I believe, if it fits well with your family, fits a skill set your wife has, it can be helpful. I have several in my family who each have a small, part-time home-based business. In our case, for Kathy and I, it did not fit, and in the early years of our marriage and family, I actually worked two jobs or 75 hour weeks, so Kathy could maintain her focus on our children, and care for her health.
I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, I only mean to be helpful. I am not trying in any way to be judgemental of any of you reading this. I want with all my heart to help you succeed in living out, in meaningful and effective ways, godly, biblical values, in a world gone crazy for all things material. Things that can steal our heart, and hurt our children’s spiritual development.
You dads, you men, you must decide what is best, with God’s help and wisdom for your precious family. Think carefully, pray much, get godly counsel, seek the Lord and His biblical wisdom, and then choose what will help you best accomplish raising your children for Jesus Christ, and helping them become life-long followers of Jesus.
Please let me know any way I can help you personally.
NEVER, EVER LOSE HOPE, NO MATTER HOW BLEAK THINGS SEEM TO BE. YOUR HARD WORK AND EFFORTS WILL PAY OFF IN TIME. GOD WILL COME THROUGH FOR YOU. I NEVER, EVER STOP ASKING GOD IN PRAYER EVERY DAY TO BLESS WHAT I HAVE, TO MULTIPLY IT, AND GROW OUR FINANCES AND GIVE ME WISDOM. GOD HAS COME THROUGH IN AMAZING WAYS.