Sunday, June 8, 2014


When it comes to debt reduction and money (self) management, there are no secrets. In fact, the Lord has already revealed through His prophets sound guidelines on these matters. The trouble is it’s up to us to make them a financial priority.

For me, one of the strongest monetary “temptations” I’ve had is my desire to provide good things for my children—to keep up with their “Jones’s.” Mind you, I’ve likewise known it was best for them to struggle and learn and manage, it’s just that that knowledge wasn’t fully able to overcome those other desires without focused effort--effort that eventually led my husband and I to achieve no credit card debt, no automobile loans, and no mortgages. A pretty good gift—financial peace—to give my children, don’t you agree?

Looking back over those years, however, I realize I’ve gained another blessing: the knowledge of three other valuable, financial principles that are not so readily touted. They are: “Be Creative,” “A Little Goes a Long Way,” and “Trust the Lord.”

Be Creative.
 In the General Women’s Conference held on Saturday, September 27, 2008, President Uchtdorf spoke of each person’s divinely inherited desire to create beauty out of nothing. He also encouraged us, as I remember it, to be “creative” in all we do, to make everything around us better than it had been before. Can’t we, then, create ways that are unique to us and our personal abilities in order to achieve financial peace? I believe we can, for while eternal principles such as the law of tithing provide no room for variation, others, like living within our means, saving for a rainy day, and avoiding debt can be adapted to our individual situations. I know this is true because my husband and I have “creatively” obeyed these guidelines.

For instance, when we purchased our first home (the second, as well), we avoided banks and mortgage companies. Not because we feared them, but because we simply didn’t want to givethem our money; it was our form of "buying local" to support the economy. We did, however, “borrow” from the homeowner, a dear, elderly woman (not a relative) we truly loved and who loved and trusted us. With help from her lawyer, we drew up a fair-for-both-sides contract in which she carried the loan and we paid her back, with interest (the current, home loan interest rate at that time). After that, we always paid extra to the principle and paid off the loan in a much shorter time than she’d expected. That situation was good for both of us, but what I most appreciated about it was the fact that she received all of the money. Not the bank. Not a middleman.

Granted, that kind of opportunity does not come to everyone, nor does everyone want it (it includes a great deal of risk for the homeowner), but my point here is there are creative ways to finance our needs. Consider this other, odd example:
Right now, this very minute, I am sitting in my living room with my injured leg propped up in my recliner, writing this article on a laptop computer. The strange part, though, is my living room, my entire living space—kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom, etc.—is also my garage. My future garage.

That’s right. About ten years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted to build a new house. My husband is a MAJOR do-it-yourselfer (though not a home contractor or construction worker), and he devised this plan: build our garage first (we could pay cash for it) but adapt it to the needs of a home and add the house later. I agreed with his plan. 

To make a long story short, we jumped through tons of legal hoops (including having to meet the safety inspection codes for both a house and a garage), we (ourselves, children, and a kind and knowledgeable neighbor) literally built—without contractors—all of the garage and house (except some of the cement work), and now, since we are still living in our 1400 ft. square "garage," we work on the “house” bit by bit as time and money allows.

Again, this opportunity does not come to everyone, either, nor would I advise everyone to do exactly what we’ve done—It may not fit their needs or goals, and besides that, it’s not easy!—but it’s how we’ve creatively lived within our means and eliminated mortgage debt.

A Little Goes a Long Way.
 Before my husband and I married, we committed ourselves to avoiding debt. At first this meant we only purchased items, including cars, when we had the cash; but as time went on, we eventually bought a vehicle on credit. Credit, as you’ve probably guessed, doesn’t sit well in our systems, so whenever we’ve agreed to a loan, we’ve made sure our payments were less than we could afford, so we could add “a little” (or a lot) extra to the principle. Not only that, when lean times hit, our required payment was still low enough to manage, and when our income was the same or better, we could gradually drive the principle down until the debt was gone. To this day, we’ve never kept a debt to full term.

Trust the Lord. 
Like most, I have several tithing” stories. Such as the impression I received to shop at a certain store for the children’s clothing I needed but couldn’t afford, only to find they had the items on sale and in my price range. Or the overly-producing garden we raised the year my husband was unemployed. Or the feeling my husband had that we needed to quickly pay off our car loan and move to a less expensive apartment several months before his income was drastically reduced. All of these are blessings we’ve received from paying tithing, but they are also blessings we could not have fully partaken of if we hadn’t already been following God’s other financial laws. In fact, the longer I think about our self-money management pathway, the more blessings I see, even within the lives of our children.

Just the other day, for example, I received an e-mail from my missionary son. He indicated that his P-day activities would be limited that day because the other missionaries were out of money. “But I’m not,” he said. “I’ve been careful with mine.”

Reading that, I grinned. And I’m still grinning. Yes, living within our means, saving for a rainy day, and avoiding debt has not been a road without sacrifice. Neither has it been a road without learning other important principles. But fruits of our labors? They taste sweeter than any object we could have purchased. Even more than those things owned by the “Jones’s.”

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