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Old Jan 9, '12, 9:30 am
chaunceygardner's Avatar
chaunceygardner chaunceygardner is offline
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Join Date: July 24, 2009
Posts: 1,195
Religion: Catholic disciple of Jesus
Default Re: Debt & charitable giving

Originally Posted by DiZent View Post
My husband & I are experiencing somewhat of a debt problem right now. Some of it came from overspending, but there were also emergencies & unplanned expenses. I have looked over the financials for the past 3 years and I can trace the problem back to 2009, when my mom passed away & we lost 1/3 of the household income (she paid the gas & electricity bills). The income is not stretching from paycheck to paycheck and the credit card debt is increasing. I have had to put gas & groceries on credit. We are working hard to cut monthly expenses and stick to a budget, and are in the process of refinancing the mortgage at a lower rate to reduce the monthly payment. Right now, my parish contribution has become a hardship, but I don't want to "shortchange" God.

We have to reduce expenses more or increase the income. Hubby is on disability and cannot take a job. I am considering taking on a second job. Please keep us in your prayers, that I might find a way to continue my parish contribution.
Two Thoughts. First, yes you should reduce your charitable contributions, including to your parish. At least temporarily. Others have explained why. You can compensate for that through participating in parish work and activities. Parishes need help in many areas, and most are always looking for volunteers. Perhaps you and/or your husband can get involved in that way. Money is only one way that we can be good stewards.

There should be non-profit agencies in your area that help people in circumstances like yours. If you belong to a credit union, check with them; they may be able to refer you to a financial counseling service. Your diocese may also be able to help.

You have already done the first steps by identifying the problem and the cause. Now you may need help fixing it, in reducing your expenses and getting your budget back in order. You may be able to do this without having to take a second job (which will also give you more time to volunteer at church).

And please keep in mind that, in this economy, you are not alone in having to deal with financial issues. I will pray that you are able to work through the difficult times.
Turn your ear to wisdom, incline your heart to hidden treasures search her will find the knowledge of God. - Inspired by Proverbs 2

Yes I am a bonafide, practicing Catholic.
Old Jan 13, '12, 3:43 pm
sherepa sherepa is offline
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Join Date: August 8, 2009
Posts: 3
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Debt & charitable giving

God bless you for desiring to continue supporting the Church financially during this time. People say God cannot be outgiven and that has certainly been my experience. As we've learned to trust Him financially, we have always had more than we need. Of course you need to do your part by cutting back where you can, but when your priorities are God and your family, you discover many other things are no longer as desirable and you're just as happy without them. Now if I could only trust Him with my time.....
Old Jan 29, '12, 1:15 pm
Joel42 Joel42 is offline
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Join Date: January 29, 2012
Posts: 2
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: Debt & charitable giving

I went through a similar situation. Things were going along swimmingly (I thought) until a real estate investment went sour, and instead of putting cash in our pocket I found myself writing checks for $40,000 a year to keep the thing afloat .... couldn't rent it and couldn't sell it.

After a year or two of denial, I found myself in prayer. Out of that prayer came an understanding of Jesus's command to "take up your cross." It was going to mean a radical transformation in our financial management. Action steps:

1. I cut chartiable contributions 70%. The intent was to match income to outgo, and I came to realize that trying to maintain the old contribution level was a sin of pride. Humility was required to realize that I was where I was. (I continued our volunteer work in our parish; I'm doing for free what the parish used to pay $45,000 a year to have a staffer do.)

2. Like many small businessmen, I had used credit cards to finance the business, so our credit card debt is much higher than the average family's.

But when I began to prayerfully look at it, it became pretty clear that one of the most important things we could do was to pay off the credit cards. That mean selling stocks. And that was a hard hurdle to cross, because for years it had been a source of pride that we had substantial stock investments.

But the math here was pretty simple: If a credit card is costing you 13% interest a year, and your stocks are earning you 8% (dividends and capital gains), you're going in the hole 5% every year. The answer: Sell the stocks. (Thanks to the lousy economy, this wasn't as painful taxwise as it might have been. Most of the stocks had losses or small gains.)

It had been nice to look at a balance sheet and see assets totalling over $1 million, but this was, in fact, delusional since we really weren't worth $1 million, but just a fraction of that. To act as if we were "millionaires" when in fact our net worth was a fraction of that was a lie -- and isn't lieing sinful?

3. I also came to realize that we had an awful lot of clutter. A friend once said possessions are a burden, and in my prayer I came to realize he was right. Action step: Go through and get rid of stuff we no longer need. We're selling it, if possible, to reduce our debt. If we can't sell it, we're simply giving it away. The goal is to reduce our need for a big house. (Note: We're not giving away sentimental things. But there's an awful lot that isn't sentimental, just stuff taking up space.)

4. We are taking a hard look at that real estate investment. We probably will sell it, but to do that we have to stop the bleeding. So we're developing a list of things to do to increase its marketability, first as a rental property, and then for sale.

While our financial mess is a result of the economy, it is also true that it probably reflected a large amount of pride and I suspect Our Lord is using the economy to wring that pride out of me. This led to a nonfinancial look at how we were living. Some of that has financial repercussions.

For instance, we go through a five-liter box of wine a week. Beginiing on Ash Wednesday, we're off the wine. That will reduce expenses about $1,000 a year -- and reduce our waistlines too! If I cut out Diet soda, we'll save another $1,000.

It also led me to realize that I need to cut back on distractions in order to imitate St. Joseph in his carpentry shop, doing my work efficiently and with attention to detail. This means I need to find ways to increase our sales.

My goal is to get us to the point where we are debt free, and where we have substantial cash reserves for all those hiccups in life, such as having to buy a new air conditioner. And where I can once again donate 10% of my income to charity, even if it is 10% of a lower amount of income.

I can only tell you, from my experience, that financial difficulties can be truly humbling. I think it is necessary to accept them as being from the Lord, to work through them and to try to understand what God is asking of us.

Looking back over this post, I realize that to a large extent the practical effect will be to reorder our life: As we move to having less stuff, fewer investments, and much less debt we are also moving to a re-prioritization of priorities. Those priorities, I think, aren't a bigger house, and a a bigger stock portfolio, but to put God first, people (and especially family) second, work third and everything else fourth.

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