We started by setting up a budget. At first, it was easy; Jaleen filled the categories in based on what we had spent the previous few months and added in my paychecks. However, when everything was entered, the amount at the bottom of the page was a large, negative number.
"It's okay." Jaleen said. "Now's the part when we start eliminating the things that we don't really need. Once we've done that, we will hopefully have something left to start paying off some of the debt a little faster."
I said goodbye to my lunches out and new movies on DVD. Jaleen promised to consolidate her trips and carpool to activities when she could to conserve gas. By the time we finished the budget, we had cut back on numerous non essentials and had a plan for paying off the credit card.
"Okay, this is good." I told Jaleen.
She smiled. "Yeah, it's good. But remember, Brendan, a budget is no good if you don't follow it."
For the next four months we were amazing. We followed our budget, reviewing our spending each week to make sure we were on track. Slowly, the credit card balance began to come down. But in August all of the kids needed new clothes and supplies for school. My car had a blow out on the freeway, so I had to buy a new tire. We slipped back into our old habits. Feeling bad about the money we had spent, and knowing we had exceeded our budget, we avoided looking at it.
Before we knew it, December loomed before us. We had no money, and our credit card hovered dangerously close to the limit, again. Every time the kids started to talk about Christmas, Jaleen's eyes would mist over. I handled things in a more mature manner--yelling at the kids not to sing Christmas songs in November.
"We've got to do something." Jaleen whispered to me one night.
"I know. But what?"
"I don't know. Maybe we could fast and pray during the week and share what we've felt on Sunday."
"Okay," I agreed reluctantly. I had the feeling that I wasn't going to like what the Lord had to tell me.
(to be continued...)