Q Money is a constant source of tension in our marriage. What should we do?
A Just a few months before I got married, a friend invited me to a Christian financial seminar led by the late Larry Burkett. Larry said something that really got the attention of this young groom-to-be: “The majority of divorces are caused by money problems.” Why? Because, Larry observed, “Money is either the best or the worst area of communication in our marriages.” It didn’t take long before my wife, Beckie, and I realized how true that is. While Satan tried to use money to drive a wedge between us, God used three practical steps to draw us closer to each other and to him:
1. Change My to Our
After studying the “one flesh” principle in Genesis 2:24, Beckie and I agreed there would be no more “my money” and “your money,” just “our money.” Everything we owned or owed would be ours together. This has been an enormously helpful approach because we found that we cannot truly be united if our financial lives are separated.
2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!
Beckie and I joke that we fight about money only once a year now. While we communicate often about our money, we make a special point to sit down once a year to talk about our values and priorities. The family budget is one important part of that communication because it is a “picture” of where our hearts are (Matt. 6:21). We’ve found that open, ongoing communication helps us avoid most of the day-to-day money misunderstandings that can so quickly add up to big problems.
3. Share Responsibility for Managing the Budget
Practically speaking, only one person should keep the books. In our family, that’s my job. But we share responsibility for managing our budget. I see to it that our giving and saving goals are on track (you can do much of that online). Beckie uses cash envelopes to manage our household expenses such as groceries, clothing, and gas. Although we have different styles of managing money, the key is that we prayerfully agree on a unified plan, trust each other to live within that plan, and communicate as we go along.
—Mike BuwaldaMike Buwalda is a stewardship educationconsultant for Barnabas Foundation (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Q What are some realistic things we can do to make our house more energy efficient?
A “Realistic” really depends on your wallet. Here are a few levels of energy efficiency depending on your budget:
Free energy efficiency
- Leave blinds open during the day in the winter and closed during the summer (especially on south-facing windows).
- Dry clothes on a line.
- Turn off lights (if my friend in Africa can live without any electricity, I can live without lights for most of the day).
- Turn down your thermostat and hot water heater.
- Unplug your TV and DVD player (they take up tons of energy even when they’re not on!).
- Not free but have future payback
- Change to compact florescent lighting.
- Check and improve attic and wall insulation.
- Check and improve caulking around
- windows and doors.
- Only buy Energy Star appliances (www.energystar.gov).
- Insulate your water heater.
- Plant a deciduous tree on the south side of your house.
- Do an energy audit of your home (U.S.—http://hes.lbl.gov/; Canada—http://www.winergy.ca/) or hire a company to do an energy audit for you.
- Going for the works
- Change to energy-efficient windows (www.efficientwindows.org).
- Change to solar power (see Solar Energy Society of Canada, www.sesci.ca; American Solar Energy Society, www.ases.org) or wind power (see American Wind Energy
Association, www.awea.org; Canadian
Wind Energy Association, www.canwea.ca) or geothermal heat in Canada (www.earth
energy.ca/conta.html or www.renewables.ca ).
Some areas even offer a rebate program for retrofitting your home. For ideas and grant information try www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca (Canada) or www.eere.energy.gov (U.S.).
Cindy Verbeek is the church and community group liaison for A Rocha Canada—Christians in Conservation (email@example.com) and a member of Houston CRC, British Columbia.