[notice]A fortnightly column on marriage, family and relationships.[/notice]
One of the leading causes of divorce is conflicts about finances. There are many reasons that lead people to financial pits; financial challenges and financial crises. Keeping up with the Joneses or the Khumalos and you cannot afford their lifestyle, being over generous and not communicating your needs and challenges as a family; not being united in how you handle your money as a couple to being ignorant about what is going on when it comes to your finances.
When you get married you do not just marry a spouse you marry a family. It is so cliché to say but it is so true. You marry their way of doing things. What your spouse has seen all his life; what has been modelled in front of him that is what you marry. You marry who he is…his history; his background; his family. You marry how they view money. You marry how he has seen his father handle money issues.
I grew up in a family where I watched my parents use credit cards to buy clothes. Furniture and cars were bought on account. I saw women around my community see it as a sign of status if one had many clothing accounts. It was indeed a moment of pride if one opened one’s wallet and it was full of cards. What they did not tell us as kids is the endless phone calls that one receives from all these creditors wanting their money at the end of the month; that worrying reality of living from pay cheque to pay cheque. I did not know any better when I got married and therefore modelled what I had seen all my life.
When we got married I had a student loan that needed to be paid. When my husband said ‘I do’ to me that became his debt. Before we were married he had a car and cell phone payments that were still outstanding. When I became his wife those debts became mine.
Beware of wedding costs
When you are planning a wedding make sure that you know what you are saying yes to. Many people, I find, plan for the wedding day which is a one day event and do not prepare for the marriage which is a lifetime commitment. It is a common scenario these days to find a couple who hosts a beautiful big wedding having to pay off the bill years after the event. With the popular reality wedding show “Our Perfect Wedding” and Top Billing (a luxury lifestyle television show in South Africa) people do not want to be left behind when they get married because they also want to have a Top Billing wedding. If the pocket is not deep enough to afford a Top Billing wedding they still want to have a “perfect wedding” and “tick all the boxes”. What benefit is it if you have a perfect wedding and you do not even have an apartment; a home that you will go to because you have used up all the money and borrowed from friends and family?
My husband and I found ourselves in a financial pit like most couples. We used clothing accounts; had bought our furniture on account had cell phones on contract. We found ourselves in a sinking hole trying to work our way out of debt and constantly failing. We would borrow from friends and family only to feel more horrible because we now owed them money. The material things we bought we could not even enjoy because we were constantly being called to pay back the bank loans and were constantly having to shout at the creditors calling wanting their money back. At one point I avoided even answering phone calls. I hated the feeling of coming home not knowing if there would be a car outside our house coming to repossess the cars.
So many people have been and are living this way… This affects a marriage especially if you have such different ways of how you deal with money. It affects your relationship with your spouse and God. It affects your prayer life. You are constantly shouting at the children as you are taking your frustrations out on them. Any small thing gets you angry. Any small thing gets you anxious because you are not at peace. There is no peace in the home as you are constantly walking on egg shells.
THIS IS NOT GOD’S WILL FOR US. Jesus came so we might have life and have it to the full as John 10 verse 10 tells us. My husband and I got to the end of our rope and finally cried out to God to help us. We told Him that it was our foolishness that got us to that point in our lives. It was our choices and decisions that put our family in this predicament. We were both equally to blame. We wasted money on things we did not need.
We found that when we communicated and confronted our situation we began to make progress in paying off our debt. Communication was the key for us in winning the war against debt. We still talk about our finances. In the past bills would come in the post and we would ignore them. Ignoring them meant that we ended up getting more and more interest on those accounts. We decided and agreed to approach all our creditors from the clothing shops to the car dealerships.
We went to our cell phone providers and banks where we took out loans and renegotiated how we would pay off the debt. We went to all of them! God gave us favour and some reduced our debt and told us that if we paid within three to six months they would decrease it by 40% to 50%. This favour only became available when we decided to focused on tackling our debt. As we paid off one debt we refocused the money that was supposed to go to it to pay off another debt. We could not believe after 11 months we literally had no other debt except the house as we had prayed. To fully own everything that you have is freedom because then you are not a slave you to anyone.
Do not be ignorant. Constantly take stock of what is happening in your finances.
There are many things that eat up at your money without you even realising it:
- Constant trips to the supermarket buying one item at a time instead of buying all your groceries at one time. Bank charges from those individual purchases accumulate to a sizable amount over a month.
- Buying takeaways instead of making lunch. If you were to calculate how much you use towards your tea; coffee and lunch bought at work you will realise that you would save a lot of money if you were to take a flask and a lunch box to work.
- Contract phones. This is not so obvious because it is always under the disguise of “But I use the airtime”. The truth is you end up using the airtime even if you were not going to use it because it is there. You have paid for it. We had four contract phones at one point and had to pay over R40 000 to one cell phone provider. Do not fall into this trap. If you really do not need something do not get it. Cell phone companies always tell people take the phone today we will give you another phone for free and give you free airtime. Calculate your monthly payment over the period of 24 months you will realise that by the end of the 24month period YOU WOULD HAVE PAID FOR BOTH PHONES.
- The holiday season is fast approaching and most families spend more money during the December period than at any other time. Before you buy items for families ask if they really need them or they can do without. Ask yourself if you really have enough money for when the children go back to school and for January.
The reality is that so many South African families live through the credit card system. We are not a nation that saves generally and pays cash. Most of the material things people have from cars; houses to furniture are owned by the bank. We need to change this scenario as it is imprisoning. This is a system that keeps up slaves to the creditors.
This is not a way that our Father wants us to live. Owing people money is no way to live! Constantly borrowing is no way to live!
In Mark 3:25 the Bible says: If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
Purpose in your heart today that you will not borrow! Be resolute about it as a family… YOU ARE GETTING OUT OF DEBT!
Our hope was God. We tried to do it our way. We tried to do it the world’s way but we were not coping. We were hopelessly failing and we needed His help so desperately. When we cried out to Him with one voice He met us at our point of need.
With the grace of God we were able to pay off all our creditors in a period of 11 months and we are now only left with the house that we are still paying. We now only have the house payments and fixed expenses such as food; transport; electricity that we pay every month. We are trusting God for favour with the house as well as we do not want to have to pay over 20years or 30years as is the norm. Now we are learning to save and buy instead of using the world’s way of getting things on credit and pay later.
God is indeed faithful. If He can help our family He will help yours too. Lay it at the altar and step out in faith, trusting that He will help you. God wants to free you from the chains of debt. He loves you so very much and does not take pleasure in seeing you live a life of frustration and fear each and every month.
My husband and I feel so passionate about being free from debt. We know the pain and the bondage of being in debt. We are available to share our story at length of how God was able to help us overcome our debt and of how He is still helping us manage our finances.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org You can connect with me on Facebook by liking my page Life in Full Bloom with Neziswa N Kanju