I think it's easy, especially here in Washington, DC, to get wrapped up in money, and making enough to support a certain level of lifestyle, etc. We've always been on the bottom of the middle class, I have to work or we couldn't afford this house, and would be living, crammed into a small two bedroom apt, and probably barely have survived Jim's most recent layoff this past fall. Not that people don't live that way, and even if that is how we were living, we'd be thankful for the roof over our heads and all that. But we like the luxury of little things, like a yard, a neighborhood to play in, a basement to store our crap in, a shed to keep our bikes in (instead of hanging them from the ceiling in our apartment living room), the ability to paint our walls colors that we find soothing, to put nails in the wall anywhere we please, to turn on our own heat and A/C instead of waiting for the building mgmt to do it. So we work, and I work, and we don't really go on vacations in the grand sense of the word, but overalll, it's labor and sacrifices I'm wiling to make and do to keep our status quo.
But...sometimes our spending starts edging into the middle-middle class, and we had a lot of it this spring. Jim spent way too much on me for our 5th anniversary (still have that spa gift certificate I need to use...), he got a job requiring him to wear suits and ties more often than ever, so off to shopping he went - to Marshall's, and TJ Maxx, and the Macy's and JC Penny sale racks. Got an incredible amount of quality clothes (2 suits - one was Ralph Lauren at Marshalls!, 5-6 dress shirts, 2-3 new ties, and a couple pairs of new trousers) for a few hundred. Then taxes screwed us (my W-4's weren't as well calculated as I thought to compensate for the freelance work I do that is untaxed), and here we are, 3 months into his new job, still feeling like we're living paycheck to paycheck.
Just this morning, I emailed Jim with his friendly monday morning weekly family schedule (because he can't be bothered to look at the big calendar in the kitchen), and mentioned that we should pray for provision for our bills, and self-control to really only spend money on things we need in the moment, as anything else can wait. I'm a firm believer in God providing for His people, especially when we have the faith to trust that he will take care of us. I saw my parents faithfulness growing up, through the lean years, how things always managed to work out. I wrote our monthly tithe check just yesterday at church, knowing full well that that because I wrote that check, I was now going to have to take money out of our savings account to cover the rest of the May bills. But tithing is important, and we should give to God what is his before we give to Ceasar what is Ceasars (there's a reference in the New Testament somewhere as to that passage, but don't ask me what it is).
And what do I find in my work email today, the account with my contractor that I don't check often (vs. the federal one I check constantly)? An email from my supervisor telling me that I've been approved to start charging an additional 5 hours/week to my contract, and am able to bill an additional 5 beyond that if needed without approval for overtime. So yay! This comes to, after taxes, roughly $100 a paycheck more, which is so needed since my paychecks shrunk a few months ago when I re-worked my w-4's so as not to get screwed again when we do our 2009 taxes.
Sure, this option has been on the table for a while, it was bound to get approved one of these days, but the timing couldn't be more obvious, at least to me, that God was saying "Thanks for thinking of me and putting your tithe before your bills. See? I've got your back. It'll all work out."
I'm so strung out with this job, that if they didn't approve the extra hours (it's wierd being salaried and hourly all at the same time...can't ask for a raise, but you can get more hours on your contract...), I was starting to formulate plans in my head as to how I could quit and we could still pay bills. Sure, my etsy shop is finally up and running (http://tinyapple.etsy.com), but there's no way that's going to be a source of income beyond fueling some non-essential purchases (like that 2nd tattoo I've been wanting for a while, or new back yard furniture that isn't the craptastic, starting to fall apart from over use plastic stuff we got at Home Depot when we first moved in). But for now, we're set, we'll cross the next bridge when we get to it. Lord knows we've had enough hurdles to get over before, so long as there's no layoff for Jim in the near future, I think we can handle just about anything.