Intentional Finances: Christina’s Story

Taking an honest look at our finances can be daunting, (yes, we’re talking about those daily coffee runs!) but Christina and her husband, Mike, were determined to set healthy financial habits as a family. Here they share about their journey to intentional finances and how they’re moving forward, together.

It has been on my heart to organize our family’s finances. It was then very timely that my husband, Mike, (we just celebrated 14 years of marriage!) came across the Living [Within] Your Means course at FAC.

As an accountant, I already had strong feelings about how we could manage financially⁠—but Living [Within] Your Means was a way both Mike and I could learn and grow together.

We had been attending the Online Campus for some time and have also been looking for more ways to get involved, so we stepped out in faith!

A 6-week program, the course challenged us to track our expenses in a 3-month and 6-month period. At the end, we were faced with some surprising results.

I knew our family dinners and outings were going to be a significant expense, but what I did not expect were our frequent family Tim Hortons runs. The grabbing-a-coffee-here-and-there (and of course, smoothies for our two girls) all added up!

It got very real: investigating every individual expense and examining how to control that within our budget. It can sound really easy to change your spending habits, but it’s actually really hard to do, especially when there are certain factors that are out of your control. 

An area we found this to be especially true was in our mortgage. With the fluctuations in the economy (i.e interest rates) our monthly mortgage payments have substantially increased.

My family and I love camping. But to keep living within our means and accommodate this increase, we have had to make temporary cuts to our family’s “fun adventure” budget.

Although this is not fun, this was a way for us to still stay within our planned goals. Because the truth is, as things and circumstances change, you can’t keep living as you have if you want to achieve your financial goals.  

Instead of being reactionary, how can we be more intentional over each expense? What can we control?

Nobody taught me about finances when I was younger. Now as a mom, I make sure to make conversations about money a priority. We’ve even implemented saving as part of our routine! Every time I give my girls their allowance, they get to spend half, and the other half goes into a savings jar. That way, their jar is a visual representation of how their savings can grow.

Funny story: my daughter saw on Pinterest that she could put her phone in the pool to take a “cool” picture. She decided to test it out, and as you can imagine, her phone died. She was so upset.

I had said to her, “You know what, you have quite of bit of savings!”

With her savings in that little jar, she bought herself a new phone. My hope is that my daughters will continue to carry these habits with them all the way into adulthood. 

This course continues to challenge me to keep practicing these habits. A good practice, in particular, is asking myself before every purchase, “Is this a need or a want?” If the answer is the latter, how can I achieve the same result or fulfill the want without spending any money? This has actually inspired some creative problem-solving. 

An example is my daughter has had trouble sleeping recently. I wanted to buy her a sound machine to hopefully help her get a better quality night’s sleep. But I asked myself, “Is this a need or want?” And since the answer was the latter, I decided to find a solution without spending a single dollar.

With a little research, I found that there are apps that play rain sounds/white noise continuously and so I downloaded one on an old cellphone of mine. It works well! And more importantly, it has helped her a lot and she enjoys it.

Because of my accounting background, my approach to finances was more budget-oriented than being focused on the skills to form good financial habits. Living [Within] Your Means has helped create a shift in my perspective. Now, my husband and I find more common ground; having a person on the outside giving us advice and tools has helped us find more balance and has better informed our approach to our finances.

We’ve made some mistakes along the way. We’ve found some stuff confusing.
Just because you get off track or the unexpected happens doesn’t mean you failed. You can take the tools and the skills you learned, and you can regain control. 

We know we have to continue to make adjustments and it will take time, but we can always get back on track. 

Christina and the girls were also recently baptized at FAC during the pandemic. We’re so grateful for her willingness to share her and her family’s financial journey. If you’re interested in cultivating better financial habits just like Christina and Mike, check out our Financial Freedom courses!