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Lydia Ingegneri

Has the month of May been as crazy for you as it has been for me?  Typically, the months of May and June are full of birthday parties, wedding ceremonies and graduations.  It is a wonderful season of celebration, and making others feel special in the midst of defining, life changing moments. 
As much as I love the joyous celebration, it takes time, energy, and finances to make it all happen!  Scott and I usually begin setting aside money early in the year just for the month of May, which we have officially dubbed as “Christmas Round 2”! My kids, my sister, many of my close friends, and even myself have birthdays in the month of May.   This year we’ve enjoyed even more celebrating with the confirmation of my niece in Norway and the graduation of my nephew in America. 
Are you a person who likes to go all out, spend money on the people you love, and do everything you can in your power to be there for the people you love? Me, too!  However, it’s just not always feasible, or wise, to be as elaborate as I’d like to be. This time of year, as well as the holiday season, can actually cause people angst because of financial pressure and time commitments.  Yet, I think you know this as well I do – it’s just not worth going into debt or stressing yourself out over a birthday present!  It just isn’t. So, how do we avoid this pitfall while making other’s feel special and blessed? Hopefully I can help with that! First of all, you have to change your mindset.

Our biggest downfall is that we’ve allowed modern culture to define how we should spend our money.

I am NOT suggesting at all that you shouldn’t spend money, or go above and beyond in making someone feel amazing on his or her special occasion.  However, I am saying don’t spend money you don’t have! This kind of giving isn’t honoring to the Lord and certainly won’t make you feel any better.  This kind of giving has a bigger price tag than the gift itself. 

Let all that you do be done with love.
— 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NKJV)

It’s really important that we do things out of a motivation of love, not obligation. Just because you love someone a lot is not an excuse to spend money you don’t have. However, when we do things in Godly love, our heart and mind are focused on the right thing. Here’s an example for you. Today is my son James’s 10thbirthday.  I don’t have a lot of extra cash this month so I decided not to spend money on balloons and extra decorations. Honestly, I felt really guilty about that!  I know, I know – I’m just being honest. I wanted James to feel special when he woke up so I decided to make him a crown out of construction paper, glue, and markers! This morning when James woke and came downstairs his face lit up when he saw his special, handmade birthday crown! He didn’t care that there weren’t balloons and streamers everywhere.  He was so blessed that I took the time to make him a special crown just for him!
If I spend money I don’t have, I am not loving my family, or others, the way I should. I’d rather save money, or spend little on something thoughtful than leave a party with a pit in my stomach because I don’t have enough money to pay the bills.  It’s just not worth it! 
Often it’s pride that keeps us from not being wise.  I believe internally we know what the right choice is; yet we often go against the wisdom of God in the area of finances. 

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.
— Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

Here are a few challenging questions to ask yourself:

  1. Does spending money make me feel better about myself?
  2. Am I OK showing up to a party or event with no gift?
  3. Would I be embarrassed if I could only contribute $5-$10 towards a joint gift for someone?

These are loaded questions, but worth asking.  Here are my 100% truthful answers:

  1. YES
  2. NO
  3. YES

There you have it.  I’m human just like everyone else.  I enjoy spending money on others. I would be mortified if I didn’t have a gift for someone if I was invited to his or her event. I would be a little self-conscious if I could not contribute more to a joint present.  In further response to question #1, years ago the Lord began a process in me to set me free from false identity, and wrong motives.  Today I don’t struggle as much with #1 because I’ve realized that who I am is not wrapped in what I have or don’t have. Question #2 is a reality I have faced.  I have literally shown up to a party with no gift because I didn’t have the money to buy something.  This was hard!  I wrote a beautiful card and gave the gift of words and my physical presence. Years ago I would have struggled much more with question #3.  Today, I would not be so much embarrassed as much as I would be disappointed.  My heart would be to give more, but I would give $5 joyfully if it were what I had.

Be open and truthful about your financial situation. You can’t be free if you’re not honest.

In weeks to come you’ll hear more transparent, real-life situations from our life and how we overcame financial struggles in a Godly, practical way. 
I leave you today with a few tips and insights!

  1. PLAN FOR IT.  Set realistic (I stress realistic) budgets and be faithful to save every month. A practical solution is to stop eating out for a month and put all the money you’d normally spend on restaurants into gift giving. Look ahead to the months you know you’ll typically spend more.  For example, December!  We save all year for Christmas time.  As I mentioned, May and the summer months have more expenses for our family so we plan accordingly.
  2. STICK TO IT. It only works if you stick to it! So, just do it.
  3. SHOW UP. Don’t underestimate the power of your presence!  This is so huge. If you’ve been invited to something it’s because they want you there.  Things happen, and schedules conflict, but if possible, do your best to show up.  It really does mean the world to people. I don’t remember every gift I received at my wedding, but I remember who was there.  The same goes for birthdays, baby showers, special events, etc.  YOU are the greatest gift!
  4. BE CREATIVE.  The dollar store sells birthday cards for $.50.  Or skip the card altogether and write a hand-written note.  You can buy a pack of blank note cards for usually less than $5. The dollar store also sells gift bags in bundles and tissue paper. Going this route is much cheaper than shopping at Wal-Mart, Target, etc. Invite someone out to coffee and buy him or her a birthday drink.  This will cost you $5 and you get to spend quality time together! You get the idea.
  5. ENJOY.  Make a personal commitment to be happy with whatever type of gift you are able to give.  Don’t give with a guilt complex and certainly don’t give a gift and say “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more!”  Though you may feel that way internally, you’re still giving, you showed up, and you gave in love. 

See you next time!