November 17, 2014

How to afford an international adoption: Part 2

We are not the Jones's.
The elusive Jone's that everyone is always trying to "keep up with" - you know, the ones who have the new car, the perfectly manicured lawn, the Pottery Barn furnishings, the boat for the weekends...

We are not them

The Jones's probably couldn't afford an adoption.

Yesterday I mentioned the real reason we were able to afford adopting from China (Part 1 is HERE). But the truth of the matter is that although God did provide for us in a totally miraculous way, we did our best to set ourselves up for Him to work.

Let me just clarify that when it comes to income, we are totally average people. Jon has a good job that provides a fair wage and I work just enough outside the home to basically pay for our food. We are not super-earners and have not been the beneficiaries of some huge inheritance or anything. We are just average.

Shortly after we got married (like two months) we found out we were expecting our first child. This was roughly 7 years earlier than we planned, so it threw it a little kink in our perfectly-laid-out-life. We had always planned that I would stay home with our children, but that seemed pretty impossible now that we were actually having one and I wasn't even done with college.

We always believed that everything we had really belonged to the Lord anyway, we were just the managers. We just had never had very much to manage! But with a baby on the horizon, you start looking at things differently. Our mentor couple invited us to a Dave Ramsey class they were teaching, but halfway through the 13 week event they unexpectedly had to bow out and asked us to take over. That was definitely the blind leading the blind! But it was probably also the best thing that could have happened to us. We were thrown into teaching something that we knew only a little about and had to hold ourselves accountable to everyone else in that class. It was the beginning of learning  three very important lessons:

Have you ever stepped into Wal-Mart for a few things and walked out wondering how in the world you spent $200? Or realized when you flip the calendar to December that you have absolutely no money for Christmas gifts? I am going to use the "B-word" - you need a budget. If you don't like the word "budget" we can call it a money management plan. Whatever you want to call it, you need one. All it does is tell your money where it should go, so you don't end up wondering where it went. It's a tool for you take control of your spending and the first step in making smart financial decisions.

Five years of Sprang family budgets!

Since teaching that first class, we've taught 8 others and can say with absolute certainty that debt is the number one reason people aren't able to meet their financial goals. It's not lack of income, it's too much debt. Three types are the biggest culprits: car loans, student loans and credit card debt.

3. YOU DON'T NEED __________.
A new riding lawnmower. A pair of $300 boots. To have your kids play that expensive sport. A stainless steel fridge. There's nothing wrong with any of those, but there is a huge difference between needs and wants and living in the affluent culture that we do, we often get those seriously, seriously mixed up.

I realize that all of these things go against the grain in our "I-want-it-now-and-I-deserve-it" culture. But here's the thing - we don't deserve it. We do not deserve a thing our God has not graciously given us.  It's HIS. It is ALL His. And if we don't manage what He gives us in a way that is honoring to Him, it's like telling him "I can do better" and closing the door on him in that area of our lives.

All we did to afford adoption was live within our means.

This is the house we lived in for 9 years and through our adoption process. It did not have an attached garage. It wasn't huge. It needed new windows and some TLC. It was perfect, and we loved it, and we could afford it.

This was the kitchen in that house. It didn't have new cupboards. Or granite, or even matching appliances. But I cooked a great many delicious meals in this kitchen, and it got the job done.

We drove this car (behind the cute girl on the bike) for over ten years. We paid $4000 cash for it. That comes out to be about $33/month. It got us where we needed to go and it kept our kids safe. Because you don't need a $30,000 car to get through the snow and keep your kids safe. You just don't. This one did both for a savings of $26,000. And what do you do when you don't have a car payment? You pay yourself that payment so that you can replace your car if you need to, fund your savings account and never have a car payment again.

When we eat out with our kids, we use coupons or go on two-for-one day. We buy most of our kids clothes (and a fair amount of our own) from consignment stores or clearance racks. Coffee comes from our pot and not from Starbucks. We choose activities for our kids that are affordable and worth the cost, and even then sometimes the fees for those things are their birthday gifts.

Don't get me wrong - we aren't crazy, ultra-frugal money nazis. We took our kids to Disney World, went to Costa Rica for our anniversary and put a jacuzzi tub in our bathroom. And we recently bought a slightly larger house (with matching appliances!). Thanks to my number-crunching hubby, all of those things were planned and budgeted for.

Living debt-free instead of paycheck to paycheck put us in a place where we could say "yes" when God asked us to move. If He had said "sell some stuff and use your savings to pay for this adoption" we could have done that. Honestly I'm glad he didn't, but if we had had to do that to give a child a home, we could have.

And it would have been worth it.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where theives do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  - Matthew 6:19-21


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