We are often asked: how we started over? The answer is simple; we focused on the small beginnings.
Starting over for us was a new beginning that demanded acknowledging small victories. On the Oxygen channel, we watched a new series called Preachers of LA. We heard one of the pastors say, “you may see my glory but you don’t know my story.”
That resonated with us because people may see the blessings on us today, but they do not know the journey we have walked. Some are completely unaware of: the hours we’ve prayed, the lessons of delayed gratification, the humility we endured, and the struggles we faced.
In previous blogs such as: Living To Pay Bills, What Some Pastors Won’t Tell You About Tithing, and Our daily Bills, we’ve shared financial basics we followed. However, many have asked how do you open a savings account when you have no money to pay your bills? How do you invest when you can’t even save? How do you stop using credit cards when need them to get by?
The answers to all these questions are the same; set small victory goals. What do we mean by that?
It would be crazy to set a goal to save $5,000 for the year when you can’t save $50 for the month. So a small victory goal would be just to start a saving’s plan. Then put aside $10 from every paycheck until you have $100 to open a savings account. Once the account is opened, start saving monthly. By the end of the year, you would have celebrated a small victory of finally having a savings account with a savings plan!
When we were down to zero we set small victory goals. For us, the first thing was to start living within our means. We were no longer in a position to rely on credit to float us. Losing all we had made that easy, but if you haven’t lost everything, why wait until you do? Start creating new financial habits now! (For those who may not know our story, we would encourage you to read the about section of this website.)
As we adopted the habit of: if we don’t have it, we don’t spend it, we started to see more money left over at the end of the month. This is where we learned delayed gratification and in those times of waiting, we saw God supernaturally provide.
The Bible says in Zechariah 4:10 to not despise small beginnings. So, we embraced starting over by setting small goals, and eventually, celebrating small victories by doing the following:
We Identified Where We Were.
We identified where we were in every aspect of our life; and where we wanted to be within a specific time frame. And then we set small victory goals. This included us facing the fact that we had to change careers, rebuild our financial portfolio, and find a new place to live.
This process may have seemed tedious, but it was necessary for our growth. Habakkuk 2:2 tells us to write the vision and make it plain. Sometimes the difference between your dream and reality; is the vision that was laid out, and implemented.
Part of this process included us not comparing ourselves to the Jones’s. Remember we lost all we had when we were in the real estate industry and the market took a crash. It was difficult to see realtors and mortgage brokers that did unethical things to succeed. And here we were honoring God in all we do, and we lost everything. Psalms 37:7 says, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.”
So instead of wondering why, we sought God. In our seeking, He told us to quit asking why and watch how He will get us through what we thought was the worst time of our life. In fact, that is what inspired us to write a journal of our journey.
After we identified our goals, we created a new family budget. This budget was reflective not only of our current situation, but the new goals we wrote down.
We Established Our Financial Foundation.
It’s hard to think about a financial portfolio when you can barely pay your bills but setting a solid foundation is crucial. Although we lost all we had we maintained our checking account (balancing every month), and our savings account. We knew if we were expecting God to change our financial situation, we needed to prepare for it!
As a side note, no matter how much or how little you have, everyone needs a bank account to manage their money. If you don’t have a bank account, get one. Creditors, including landlords, want to know if they grant you an apartment, a house, or a car, that you have the ability to pay them each month. By having a checking and savings account, it shows creditors that you have the ability not only to pay your bills but also to save.
In addition to having our accounts in order, we obtained a copy of our credit report. This helped us understand how our credit was effected by the hardship we endured. Knowing where you stand with your credit is a part of your financial foundation. If you’re just getting started, or starting over, its important to know and understand your credit report. You can obtain a free copy of your report from www.freecreditreport.com.
We Took Inventory Of Our Assets.
We took a look at all our assets and determined what we actually needed, and purged what we didn’t. This is when less became more for us. We looked at what we could sell, donate or throw away. If you haven’t done this before, try it. You’ll be surprised how liberating it can be!
We Reviewed Our Progress.
Every six months we reviewed our progress and made adjustments as necessary. This has become a rewarding experience. It’s amazing to see what happens even after six months when you’re consistent. To see steady growth encouraged and motivated us to work harder towards our goals.
One of our goals was to purchase another home within three years. So we decided we would prepare our field for rain by setting and celebrating small victories.
During the next three years, we did, in fact, see small victories. We first learned that we can live within our means. As we were successful with living on what we had and not what we didn’t have. Our savings account began to grow, and our credit score rebounded. In addition, we started contributing to our 401K plan at work to the max that our employer would contribute, and we were even able to pay off one of our vehicles!
One day, we were doing our semi-annual financial review and realized we were making good progress and were coming close to our three year mark for wanting to buy a house. Therefore, we decided to speak with a mortgage lender to find out what would be required. That we would know what kind of adjustments we may need to make to purchase a home.
We petitioned God for a specific dollar amount, $15,000 to be exact as we knew that would help us with our down payment and take care of a few pending items. Within two weeks of petitioning God, a close family friend called and asked if we were sitting down and proceeded to tell us that God put it on their heart to give us $15, 000! Yes, you read that right; nobody knew that we wrote that figure in our journal and petitioned God for it except for us. But, we believed that God rewarded us for being faithful with the small things, instead of complaining about what we didn’t have.
Luke 16:10 (AMPC) says; “He who is faithful in a very little [thing] is faithful also in much, and he who is dishonest and unjust in a very little [thing] is dishonest and unjust also in much.”
No matter where you are, you did not get into your situation overnight; so you won’t get out of your situation overnight. However, your progress should start with setting small goals, and eventually you will find joy in celebrating the small victories.
~ André and Timberley Gray