Children

Keeping Christmas Under Control

It is that time of year.  People start thinking about Christmas shopping about this time.  If you haven’t been keeping a Christmas fund already you may be thinking “How will I handle this?”  How do we let the whole year go by without making plans to keep Christmas under control.

It is about Jesus…

Remember the true point of Christmas.  It is a celebration of our Lord Jesus not our Lord Materialism. Create traditions with your children that will point your children toward the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We always do a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas eve, for example.  We have always based our gift giving on the idea that God has given his greatest gift to us and so we give gifts as a reminder of that Gospel truth.  What type of ideas do you have to keep it simple and focused on Christ?

Christmas Under Control

Christmas under controlFor Christians Christmas shouldn’t be about materialism.  The average American expects to spend $882 dollars on Christmas this year according to the American Research Group.  All too often our culture pushes us toward worshiping at the retail altar.  If you train your children early to appreciate the little things you are off to a good start.  There is no reason to try to buy your children’s affections once a year.

  1. Set a budget – Determine how much money you can afford or want to afford before you open up amazon.  We have a free budget sheet here.
  2. Something they want, something they need and something to read – This three point idea will help you keep things under control
  3. Secret Santa – If you have a larger family or group you feel you need to buy for then offer the idea of exchanging names and only buying for one or two people.
  4. Free gifts – Never forget the power of things that can’t be bought.  Free babysitting coupons for a night out can be priceless.

Keep a running list…

If you are like me you freeze up when it comes to actually buying the gifts.  We have the money, we planned for it but what does my wife actually want?  I have taken to keeping a running list of anything my wife mentions or anything I think she may like throughout the year.  This way I don’t have to worry too much when it comes to thinking for ideas.

What ideas do you have on keeping Christmas real?  Put it in the comments..

Stewards of Fatherhood

FatherhoodI am going to depart from my normal topics to discuss something else, Fatherhood.  This site is about the various forms of stewardship Christians are called to and this includes the stewardship of the name Father.  God the Father existed through all eternity and it is not a coincidence that he created fathers on this planet.  He didn’t create fathers and then say “Oh, since there are fathers on earth I will call myself father so they can understand.”  No, The Father was before creation and formed creation to reflect who he is.  And he is merciful and gracious enough to allow us to bear his name in our own fatherhood.

Those of us who are privileged and blessed enough to have children take on one of the names of God himself, and we should not do so lightly.  Who we are as fathers will be the starting point for how our children understand God.  We will color the lenses through which they see him.  If we are harsh and mean then when they hear that God is our Father they will assume that he is harsh as well.  If we are gracious and loving then they will naturally assume God is a loving Father as well.

Although I fail often, I try to bear this in mind as I determine how to deal with my own children.  I want them to know the Father who loved the world so much that he gave is only Son to die on the cross for their sins.  I want them to not be hindered by my performance as Father, but to be encouraged to peace when they think of God as Father.

There are many things we men steward in this life, our time, money and talent, but none of them are as important as stewarding the name and reputation of God the Father.

Fatherhood is not simply controlling your children or having them do well in school.  But, it is the intentional communication of the Gospel through our words and actions.

Christmas, Materialism and the Christian

Christmas MaterialsmLet’s face it, this time of year even the best of us have a hard time fighting off Christmas materialism.  Christians have often allowed the secular marketing powers to dictate what is means to celebrate Christmas.  Whether that is buying the newest and greatest toy for our kids (or ourselves) or forgetting what it is we are really celebrating.

I want to put out a warning to us all, including myself to guard our hearts and direct them to the real purpose of the season.  Do I love the lights, the songs, the traditions of Christmas time? Yes, I love seeing them through my kids eyes and seeing them anew myself.  I love even more when those traditions push us toward Christ and away from the values of our secular society.

Think about how you celebrate Christmas and what is communicates to your family and those around you.  We celebrate advent, a church period starting at the end November and ending on Christmas.  Advent means arrival and we do things during this time to help our family remind ourselves of the significance of Jesus birth.  We have never done the Santa thing (we do love St. Nick).  We give gifts not based on good works, but on grace.  We have made sure our kids realize that this isn’t a time to “be good” but to realize you are bad and God loved you regardless and sent in son to die for you.  We remind them of this with a Christmas Eve birthday cake for Jesus.

We don’t want our girls to look at this as a jackpot time for themselves, but as a time of thankfulness and giving.  We don’t buy a lot, but maybe more than many.  We make sure they spend their own money to buy for each other and the girls we sponsor through Compassion International.  I hope to protect them, at least a little, from the materialism that is so prevalent this time of year.  Do we do it right? Not sure, but we are being intentional in our approach to the holiday.  Being intentional and not allowing this time to run a muck is a great first step to fighting off Christmas Materialism.

How do you guide your children and yourselves through this holy time of the year?

 

Image by Sonya News under CC Attribution

My kids come first?

My Kids come firstThis stems from a discussion I recently had on Facebook.  It isn’t in my traditional category of personal finance, but it is about stewardship of a different kind.  Something very important that we steward is our children.  Our kids are in our complete care for temporarily before they come into adult hood.  For some time and in some ways their relationship with the Lord is mediated through their parents until they are old enough to build one on their own.  However before the throne of God we will all be equals, there will not be the hierarchy of family like we have here on earth.

Therefore, we are stewards of our children in as much as they are a gift from God given to us to raise for a short period of time. This is something very important to remember when considering how we raise our children.

I pointed out on Facebook that there is something more important than our relationship with our children, and that is the relationship we have with our spouses.  Someone posted the picture above and I pointed out that my wife comes before my kids.  A lot of people think that kids come first and should but I have to disagree.  I have caught a little flack for this stance but based on my biblical understanding I can’t see it any other way.

Genesis 2:24 says “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”  Children will leave their family and join in a special union with their spouses.  They become one in a way that I am not one with my children.  Many marriages start to focus so hard on their children when they come along that they allow their marriages to fall apart.  It is why you see many divorces after the kids leave the house, the marriage has taken a back seat to the children and is an anemic version of itself.

Your relationship with your children is immensely important, but understand your marriage is more important, it is the foundation of the family to which your children belong.  It is structure where they will learn about the Lord, and about love and covenant, before they ever read scripture for themselves.

9 ways to save money with kids.

Here are 9 great ways to save money with kids.9 easy ways to save money with kids

  1. Create a Babysitting Co-Op No not like those books from such a long time ago but if you and another couple can exchange babysitting services it will give both of you a free night out.  You watch their kids this week they watch yours next week.  Now you can have date night without paying cash for a sitter.  This is great for your marriage as well as your wallet.
  2. Hand me arounds  There is no reason to buy all new clothes for your child, especially when they can only where the same thing for a few months before they grow out of it. When you are done pass them along and find someone else to do the same with. My wife has a Mothers group at church that constantly passes clothes around and saves everyone a ton.
  3. Play at the Public Park Why not just go to the park and play with other kids, you already paid for it.
  4. Watch the local parks for educational programs Take your kids to these and they may have so much fun they won’t even realize they are learning.
  5. Public Libraries There is so much that can be had at public libraries from internet access to the books and learning programs.
  6. Use city services There are plenty of free (already paid for through taxes) activities for children around our city, between Metro parks and libraries there is plenty to keep them entertained.
  7. Watch local churches Especially in the summer there are tons of Vacations Bible Schools for kids’ activities.
  8. Stop spending so much on your kids  Really they want your time and love more than anything. Make up games you can play at home all the time or just play tag.
  9. Buy in bulk and pack your own snacks.  Our kids know if we are gong to the museum or the Zoo they are carrying their own food and we don’t buy it there.  We taught them how much things cost and now our kids see prices and ask “Who would pay for that?”

What are other great ways you save money with your kids?

How to help kids manage money

Kids manage moneyHow do you help your kids manage money?  This is an article where I don’t think I have the one right answer.   My girls are still young and have trouble understanding the value of money.  We have tried a few things to help them get the concept, but I think these ideas are all part of the whole and not magic cures in and of themselves.

We are open about money with our kids.

My wife and I have been fairly open about how money works and the value of it.  (Although because kids talk I still haven’t told them how much I make.)  We explain that everything costs money and how much.  I explain that God has blessed me with a job to be able to pay for our home and our food.  We tell them how we give to the church regularly and the other ministries we sponsor.  My wife takes them shopping and they understand the cost of items.  When they ask why things cost money I explain how capitalism should work and how it should be a win-win for everyone.  They have a few business ideas I need to encourage because of these conversations and a few episodes of Shark Tank.

We give them their own money

Well they work for it.  They earn tickets for doing their chores which can be traded in for money or screen time.  Their money is divided into a three part bank for giving, spending and saving.  Any money is spending is theirs to do with that they please. (Although it is really hard when they want to buy crap.)  Saving money must be targeted to a larger purchase they are working towards.  Their giving must be directed outside of our home to church or to something else like the girls we sponsor through compassion international.

This is hopefully setting a pattern in their life.  They are able to save money and delay gratification. They love to give money to good causes and have even thought of a few creative causes on their own.  This is great because it gets them thinking about someone besides themselves.

We show them the water

You remember the saying, you can lead a horse to water?  We show our kids the wise choices and explain them to them as best we can but we still let them make bad choices.  “You can buy ice cream from the truck or you can buy a whole box from the store at the same price.”  It seems to be working more and more as our older daughter is talking to us about her thought process and the smarter choices.  I am sure they won’t always make the right choices but who does?  We have let them suffer the consequences of their bad habits so they will hopefully learn a lesson down the road.

Did you parents do anything to help you understand money?  What worked what didn’t work?  What will you do with your kids?  I really want to know because I don’t have the answers on this one.

 

Image by goodncrazy

Teaching kids about money

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Kids and Money

Teaching kids about MoneyTeaching Kids About Money is not a New Law

Teaching kids about money through a gospel lens is is something I am still working on figuring out.  Our daughters 7 and 5 are still learning how to count money let alone spend it.  However, I want them to understand early how money plays a role in our life.  I want them to see Christ as sufficient and to not think money will fulfill their life.  It shouldn’t be that hard right?

But, as I researched some articles to write this I discovered something.  Most of the articles I found from big time Christian resources were no different the advice you would read from secular sources: Teach them to save early, teach them how interest works against you, make them earn their money so they understand the value of it and show them how to spend it properly.  The only thing that set them apart from secular resources was talk of the tithe.

In their book Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson say, and I am paraphrasing because for the life of me I can’t find the quote, “If your parenting isn’t any different than a Jew, Muslim or a moral humanist you are not parenting as a Christian.”  We can have all the steps and rules we want when it comes to our money and we will only create little pharisees.  Our parenting, in every way, should always call us back to the cross and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Honestly, I started to write this article as a to-do list just like the ones I read..  That is why I was so irritated by what I found when doing my research.  There are already tons of those articles out there here are a couple:

Bible Money Matters

Faith and Finance

Teaching Kids about Money – We can’t assume the Gospel.

But, like so many of our sermons these articles assume the gospel instead of preaching it.  The gospel calls us to give as we have been freely given.  I believe the gospel calls us not to be selfish with out money. The Gospel calls us to give what we have cheerfully and sacrificially.  The Gospel calls us to make Jesus the center of our life and live like he is completely sufficient.  The question is how to do instill those principles in our children when we are living like it isn’t true.  We work hard to get more to keep up with our neighbors and perhaps to give more but only to “sanctify the rest” so we can feel good about spending it however WE want.

Even by following a list of to-do’s, like the ones above, we need to be careful that we are not teaching our children to rely solely on their own wisdom to provide for all their needs, lest when financial trouble befall them they blame God because they feel like they followed all “His rules” and it didn’t work.  Then God becomes a liar in their eyes because they equate good financial advice with the gospel.

Those of us who sinfully find our security in money love to look at the book of Acts and brush off the “socialist” lifestyle they lived as being simply a description of how they lived and not instructional as to how Christians are to live.  However, giving statistics of Christians bear out that we have a lot to learn from those in the early church.

Maybe I will write a list of ideas on the practical side later because I do believe there is a need for that , right now I feel like the church needs to turn its eyes back on the cross when it comes to money.  I know I do.

Like us on Facebook

If you like this site please like us on facebook!