The Gifts We Give Our Children

Have we ever stopped to consider the birthday presents we buy our kids? I must confess that I am not always very discerning or purposeful about the gifts I buy my children. Most of the time I am excited to get them what I know they will like. I delight to see their reactions everytime they open their presents. It brings me a deep sense of joy to be able to bless them.

However, as our children grow older, Edric and I have been challenged to give gifts that are aligned with the values and principles we are trying to pass on to them.

Elijah, our eldest, turned eleven last month. He has matured so much in the last few years. And he has become much more intelligent and able minded than I ever was at his age.

Sometimes I don’t even understand what he is saying because it is beyond my very simple brain. His recent preoccupation has been memorizing the periodic table of elements with his brother, Edan. Titus is kind of joining in on this new interest they have picked up because of an app called Toca Labs.

Titus told me the other day, “Mom, I am eating sulfur.”

“What?!”

“Eggs have sulfur. It’s an element.”

Of course I laughed out loud. This was most certainly the influence of his older brother, Elijah!

The day of Elijah’s birthday, I asked him what he wanted. Of course, as his mom, I knew that a gadget would have been at the top of his list. But ever since he started helping his dad out by speaking with him around the country, he has begun to understand that it’s not easy to make money. So he doesn’t ask for anything too expensive.

Since he is into science, I bought him a couple of Kidz Labs experiments. He was very content with those and very grateful.

Separately, Edric had it in his mind to bless Elijah with an IPad. We were discussing this in the car without Elijah around and Edric was pretty set on getting him one. Initially we both thought it was a great idea. Elijah has really “proven himself worthy” to receive a present like this. We imagined how thrilled he would be. We were at that tipping point. “Let’s get it!!!” But we decided to suspend our excitement and think through the implications.

For some parents this may be a snap of the finger decision. Many of the kids we know his age have cell phones and an IPad, maybe even a laptop! He doesn’t own any. His only gadget is a very basic Kindle Reader.

At present we share two IPads between 7 of us in the family. Okay, Catalina doesn’t count. There are some good things about this. The kids always have to divide time on the IPad so they can’t ever play too long when they get to do their educational games. The IPads don’t babysit our children or keep them preoccupied constantly. They are taught to interact with others and be engaged in what is going on around them.

With Elijah, the considerations are a little different. He speaks with Edric around the country and he could use a tablet for monitoring his stocks and doing his reports. He is responsible and able to self-regulate his desire to play games. Plus, he is well aware of the dangers to avoid online.

Nevertheless, we thought of how it may negate the perspective we are trying to instill in our kids when it comes to material things. We want to protect them from entitlement issues — just because they want it, just because we can afford it, we will get it. That’s not the way we want them to view money. And once we start getting one child his own IPad, we will have to do the same with the rest at some point. It’s not a trend we want to begin in our family.

Instead, we want to uphold the character trait of restraint and learning to wait for something you value. In a culture were instant is the expectation, children don’t have to deny themselves too many pleasures or put up with a lot of inconveniences.

My concern is this may soften their resolve to work hard if they are going to get what they want handed to them anyway. Furthermore, their appreciation for what they have may vanish quickly because there is no investment of effort on their part. If we give them too much too soon, it may not prepare them for the real world either.

A businesswoman friend of mine was just talking about how challenging it is to hire young people today. They are not willing to put in the hours and energy to do an excellent job at work. Their ethic is one of convenience. To be successful, children need to realize that it’s going to take time, energy and resources to pursue their dreams and receive the fruit of their hands.

After nearly 400 episodes of Edric’s personal finance show, On the Money, he has consistently identified entitlement, the got to have it, I deserve it mentality as the number one problem of people with money issues.

So Edric decided that he wouldn’t go with a gadget. Instead, he taught Elijah how to set up his own savings account for his birthday. Elijah already has some money invested in stocks and Edric has an existing account for him (and each of our kids).

However, it turns out that BDO has a junior savings account option which allows children 5 to 12 to manage their own money. The maintaining balance is only 100 pesos and they can start earning interest off 500 pesos. They get a passbook and debit card, too. Requirements for opening this account are an NSO certified true copy of a child’s birth certificate, school ID and two ID photos. Elijah went through all the motions of setting up his bank account. So proud of him, my big little young man!

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Elijah was so happy that he got this as a present. And he is so motivated to put what he is earning from speaking into that account. He is also hoping to save up for a tablet on his own and looking forward to being able to buy one with his money.

As parents Edric and I are learning that we need to evaluate the gifts we give our children. A good question to ask is will it profit them in the long term? We may be giving good things but perhaps we can give something better, something that will help them to grow in character or acquire a valuable skill.

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. (1 Corinthians 10:23 NASB)

Be A Blessing

It came as a total surprise when Salve Duplito, Edric’s co-host on the show On the Money, asked me if I would be willing to do an interview about the article I wrote on To Buy Or Not To Buy A Designer Bag.

At first I hesitated. Me?! Why?! I write so I don’t have to speak! I am shy! (Kind of…in a self conscious, prideful kind of way, which is wrong!) Sigh. The irony is, the more I write, the more people want me to talk about the things I write. I wish I could just say, “please check out this link…” because it’s so much easier to be behind a computer typing my thoughts and editing them. I would much rather do that than speak. Speaking makes me breakout from stress and afterwards, I am tired for a week!

Why? Because my default mode is introversion. I like solitude and quiet activities that don’t require a lot of interaction with human beings. (I even need breaks from my own darling children sometimes, so I lock my bedroom door or breastfeed for too long.) But when an opportunity arises that seems to be a divine invitation to share God’s word or to be a blessing, then I ask Edric and let him help me make a decision.

My first instinct is to find some way to get out of a possible commitment. So I need his objectivity and insight. Plus, he is my “boss” and so I run things by him. If he says, “yes, go for it,” then I know it is something the Lord wants me to do.

When he found out that Salve asked if I could do an interview for the show, he encouraged me to do it. His perspective was “be a blessing.”

I have learned this same mindset from my mom who often goes outside of her comfort zone to reach out to people and make a difference in their lives. Whether it is sharing the gospel to a total stranger, spending time sitting beside a person she can encourage and minister to, or accepting speaking engagements where she can impart God’s word, she embraces these opportunities. She doesn’t think about herself or focus on what others will think about her. She has been a great example to me.

God didn’t put me in this world to do only what is cozy and comfortable. I have a job to do…to tell the world about him and to glorify him. If that means that I am going to have to stand on a stage, or walk into a room full of strangers and make new friends, or attend an event, or do something like an interview for TV, then I absolutely should (for as long as I do not neglect my husband and kids).

To psyche myself up for these moments, I tell myself…Be a blessing. This is not about you so stop thinking about yourself!

What does it mean to be a blessing?

1. Consider others as more important than myself
. Because my tendency is to think about my needs and my own preferences, this passage helps me alot…

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. (Philippians 2:3, 4 NABRE)

When I walk into a room of people, and I am tempted to think of what kind of impression I am making, I have to mentally slap myself and ask…
How can I make a positive difference in someone’s life?
How can I make others feel special and important?
How can I engage people in conversation and be genuinely interested in who they are and what they do?
How can I encourage and minister
to the people I meet with or speak in front of?


2. Use every opportunity to glorify God and point others to Christ.
The gospel must be apparent in my life, in the things I say and do. I

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NASB)

I need to keep in mind that I represent Christ’s agenda — saving souls — and not my own. My mom used to say, “never steal an ounce of God’s glory.”

Will people be attracted to Christ when they observe my life?

3. Pray
. I can do absolutely nothing to make a difference for the Lord if I am not spiritually equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit. He helps me to overcome my insecurities and self-consciousness. It is he who enables and goes before me. It is he who must speak through me. It is he who purifies my motives.

So, going back to the ANC interview…I met with Salve to do it. When I saw the script, I was thrilled that she was so accommodating of my spiritual perspective. In fact she asked me questions that allowed me to talk about my relationship with Jesus. This wasn’t edited out of the interview! And a wonderful bonus was I got to know Salve better and make a new friend.

When I look back on how God brought the opportunity to me, I am so glad I obeyed Edric when he said to do it. And I am so glad I forced myself to do something that was “unlike my personality.” The gospel is worth being inconvenienced for. It is worth the sacrifice of time, effort, resources. It is worth being rejected for, ridiculed for. It is worth giving my life to. It is worth dying for.

Therefore, I must not box myself in or put restrictions on what God wants to do through me by insisting that I do only what feels comfortable and natural. Rather, I must have the same conviction that Paul had…

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. I do all things for the sake of the gospel… (1 Corinthians 9:16, 19, 23 NASB)

The best way to be a blessing is to live out, share, and proclaim the gospel whenever and however God wants us to.

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To Buy Or Not To Buy A Designer Bag

A very pretty lady, impeccably dressed and with hair in perfectly set waves (hair I wish I had), came up to me and asked if I could write about managing finances, specifically in the area of curtailing materialism. She confessed that she liked to buy designer bags and asked how I stopped myself from doing so.

Well, first off, I don’t think it’s wrong to buy designer things. The devil is not Prada. Some people see it as an investment. Others can afford luxury without putting themselves in debt.

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However, there are occasions when it could be very wrong. For example, if you overspend (buy above your means) or if you have a compulsion to keep buying beyond your needs.

Whatever the reason or motive, I think each of us ought to be discerning about how we spend money. This article is not meant to be a guilt trip. But I intend to share my own perspective on luxury spending, particularly in the area of buying bags, clothes, shoes, jewelry or watches. Please don’t take it like I am judging every woman who wants to go out and buy herself a designer bag or two or three or so on (you know who you are ;)). I just have a different vantage point which may help someone who wants to re-evaluate her spending habits, someone who earnestly feels like she may want to change and channel her resources elsewhere.

Read on at your own risk…

I used to be a barefoot girl climbing trees, catching tadpoles, and playing with monkeys. My life was far removed from the city and shopping malls. More importantly, my mom was a simple person. She never spent alot on herself or on dolling me up. She always looked put together and she dressed me up nicely, but her spending habits were very controlled.

Up til this day most of her clothes come from the tiangge or Ross (when she visits my sister in the U.S.) So I suppose her example of frugality rubbed off on me. I did not see her buying luxury goods when I was living at home, so I didn’t develop an appetite for these things either.

What kind of spending habits did your parents have? What did they model for you? It’s very possible that they passed on to you the kind of perspective you have on spending.

It may be hard to believe but I cannot imagine paying more than 5k for a bag. Almost everyone I know who is my age has at least one luxury bag that costs 10 times as much. And others are willing to spend a hundred times more.

Personally, I don’t want to be holding or wearing anything that would tempt someone to chop my arm off. Furthermore, I really don’t feel like a bag is worth that much. Some women will say I have no idea what I am talking about. And they are absolutely right. I don’t. I am not a bag connoisseur.

But no matter what crocodile is killed to become a handbag, I would never be able to stomach paying thousand of dollars for it, even if it was made to look pretty in its after life. While I can appreciate the quality of luxury, unless the actual materials used to make a bag are near the equivalent value of the price, I think it’s a bad deal.

Everyone knows this right? Deep inside, we aren’t stupid. The difference is we all have built-in thresholds for what we are willing to pay for an item or an experience. Plus, there is the factor of what we can afford.

Life is about choices. Edric and I may not spend a lot of money on luxury products but we may spend it on a trip out of the country. Building a memory together as a couple or family is something we value more. Right now our resources are also going into our house building so that’s our present priority. Others may be able to spend on whatever their heart desires, but it isn’t common to be able to afford to do everything. Most of us have to make choices.

When it comes to bags, if I can buy something functional that does the job it doesn’t have to be branded. I want it to look stylish and well made but I have an amount that I will not go over when I make a purchase. This limits my options so I have to find deals online or in stores.

Admittedly, there are occasions when I want to pay more. But I have to remember God owns all the money Edric and I have. We are just stewards of the financial blessings he has given us. Therefore I cannot, in good conscience, pay a ridiculous amount of money for a bag when I can buy one that serves the same purpose for much cheaper.

I understand that expensive and cheaper can be relative to what a person is used to spending. But if the amount could feed a sizable orphanage for atleast a week or two, then it might be worth considering whether that money should be going to an orphanage. Just a thought. ;)

What about jewelry or watches? According to my husband Edric, who has interviewed a lot of financial experts on his TV show, jewelry and watches (depending on the brand) can be a good investment. But here is why I don’t spend for these things either. I am a practical gal. My jewelry is 90% fancy. Why? It would stress me out to have to worry about taking care of diamonds or any sort of precious stone or metal that I could lose. I don’t want the hassle of having to put jewelry in a safe. In fact, I feel very relaxed when our maids clean the bedroom. They are trustworthy but it helps that there’s nothing to take…nothing to tempt them…nothing to put into their pockets. The most precious things in our home are the people in it.

Furthermore, Edric prefers that we invest our money for the future. One of my personal dreams is to be able to buy a property for each of our five kids. I suppose this perspective comes from being the daughter of a land developer. My father’s business is in the housing sector. And like I said, I am practical. You can’t misplace a piece of property. Jewelry can get stolen or lost. With my track record for losing things, I really don’t deserve diamonds or gold.

While it would be sentimental to pass on to my children jewelry or time pieces, I would prefer to hand them the title to a plot of land. Tiny watch or a partial surface of the earth? Hmm…it’s a no brainer for me but everyone ascribes value differently. Apart from passing on a godly heritage, it would be great if we could help each of our kids get started when they are married. The Bible talks about this…

Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12:14)

If a person wants to invest in watches and jewelry as well as land or even stocks or a trust fund for their children, why not? It all goes back to motivation and purpose. God is not opposed to enjoying one’s wealth. Look at this Proverb: “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Some people are so blessed they can invest wherever they want to, and still give magnanimously to others. Praise God for them.

What about shopping for clothes and shoes? I enjoy shopping. But like my mom, I don’t need to buy branded clothing. If I find a wonderful deal then I may do so. However, I really can’t be too extravagant anyway. With the number of children I have, my kids would be naked and hungry if I was always buying things for myself. This is an exaggeration but having kids does diffuse my urge to shop for myself. They always need clothes and shoes because they are growing so fast! So a lot of times I have to shop for them.

The other reason why I control shopping for my own self is I have been pregnant and breastfeeding for so many years of my married life. I am many seasons behind the trends. My bust to waist to hip ratio is ever changing. There is no way to keep up and be fashionable all the time. So my criteria is right fit, color, and a statement of personal style. Not too trendy.

I may buy a trend or two if I really like it but the greater priority for me is to exercise so clothes will fit well. Until I get to the size I really want to be, I hold back on the clothes buying.

It’s also a blessing that I am not in any sort of fancy schmancy job that pressures me to look like a million dollars. Just the other day, I had a huge zit on my face. I mean it was so big I couldn’t believe it was on my face. It looked like a hill. My brother said, “What is that?!”

In contrast, my son turned to me and said, “It’s ok, you still look beautiful mom. Having that (the zit) just makes you look like you work really hard to take care of us.” That’s Elijah, my ever-politically correct son.

The people that I am surrounded with on a daily basis are incredibly BIASED. I don’t have to wear makeup or dress up and they think the world of me. They are my kids. Do they have a choice?! They compliment me all the time just for being me. Kids are awesome. Have lots of them! As for Edric, he just likes me to look clean and put together. Whew.

The kind of company you keep really matters. Do the people you hang out with turn on and feed your materialistic desires?

I will be honest, depending on the social circles I move in, there are times when I am tempted to think, maybe if I have designer things people will respect me more or hold me in higher regard. But when I process where that thought is coming from, the root of it is pride. It is pride telling me that I need material things of a certain standard to be accepted or to feel good about myself. So I go back to who I am in Christ. The God of this universe gave his life for a sinner like me. If he thought that I was worth that much then I certainly don’t need luxury to make me feel valuable.

If you feel like you have to wear designer clothes and accessories to feel better about yourself then it’s worth asking why this is so. Is it just because you are really after quality products or is there some sort of emotional or spiritual need that is being masked by all that spending?

Fifth, there are so many needs around me, so many ways to use money to be a blessing. I like the example of the early church believers. In Acts it says, “All the believers were together and shared everything. They would sell their land and the things they owned and then divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it. The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.” (Acts 2:44-46)

The rest of the passage talks about how the Lord was adding to the numbers of those who were being saved daily. There was something so attractive about the believers’ lifestyle of sharing and giving to one another. People were coming to Jesus because of how they were caring for each other.

This passage provides a cure for materialism. Instead of thinking what else can I buy for myself, the mindset ought to be what else can I give?

One group of people I really enjoy giving to is our household help. Periodically, I go through my closets and take out a bunch of items and tell them they can have it all. Because they don’t have alot, they are always so appreciative.

Their presence in my life teaches me to be grateful for all the comforts I have. And even if they don’t know it, they keep me grounded in terms of shopping. Whenever I shop, I think about the kind of example I am setting for them and the impact I am making on them. I don’t want them to wrestle with jealousy or envy. They don’t have the liberty to buy themselves the same things that I can. So when I am tempted to make an expensive purchase, I think about them as my standard. How would they feel if they saw the price tag? It helps to use their purchasing capacity as a reference point instead of comparing myself to people who are really wealthy.

So do I struggle with materialism? Of course. I like things…things that are pretty, sparkly, well designed, tasteful, and expensive. But I choose to manage my desires by thinking about what I am spending on and why I am spending.

At the end of the day, whatever shopping habits I have must be filtered by contentment, motivation and stewardship. And just to clarify, a materialistic person is not someone who spends less. It’s someone who looks to possessions to fill a space that ought to belong to Jesus. Any of us can be susceptible to that. We need to come to the point where we know that only Jesus can bring us true satisfaction. And we need to recognize when the love for the world is replacing our love for God.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:15, 16 NASB)

Here are some helpful heart questions to ask ourselves when we shop…

Am I being a good steward of the money God has given our family?
Is there a better way to spend or invest this money?
Am I faithfully managing the budgets assigned to me by my husband?
How can I use money to bless others and meet needs around me?
Will I cause people to stumble or be envious of me if I am extravagant? What are my motivations when I want to buy myself more things? Is it to impress people? Is it really a need?
Am I trying to project an image to others that is rooted in pride?
Is my desire for material things increasing at a greater rate than my desire to feed on God’s word and spend time with him?
How are my purchases indicative of where my heart is?

“for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 NASB)

Here’s a thought I would like to leave you with. My brother in law, Joel, passed on to Edric and I very insightful wisdom from his father about spending. “If it’s a need, find a way to afford it. If it’s a want, no amount will be worth it.”

Luxury bags, clothing, and accessories fall under the category of “want” and not “need” for me. I will not judge those who feel otherwise. Afterall, bags, shoes, clothing, watches, jewelry…these things are not the true measure of person. God sees past material things to the heart that is within.

If you forget everything I have written here, reflect on this…I like what my dad said during one Sunday service, if you love God with all your heart, you are free to do whatever you please. I had to think about that statement but it made absolute sense. If you love God with everything that you are, you will make choices that honor him. What you want will be what God wants. Therefore the question, “how do you stop yourself from buying designer bags?” is not a more important question that this one…Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? If you do, you will know what to do the next time you go shopping! God will give you peace about whether you should make your next purchase or not. ;)

Pajama Stocks

We sat around the dinner table with family some time ago and my brother in law, Joel, found out that Elijah started investing in the stock market last year. Elijah talked about what companies he had picked to invest in and the rational behind his choices. And he said this all while wearing pajamas. It just seemed a little bit funny I suppose, that a 9 year old (this was before he turned 10), would be chatting about financial investments. So Joel said, “Why don’t you write an article about it and call it ‘Pajama Stocks.’” I thought…that’s a great title. I love it. But I had put it off until today, when Edric asked me to have Elijah share about how he ventured into it to encourage parents to teach their kids to start being financially literate early.

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Here is what he wrote (with some help from me):

I first became interested in financial markets two years ago. My dad had asked me if I wanted to invest in stocks and we did some research together online to understand the process better. My dad told me to fill out the online form of Citisec but I actually lost the form and forgot about it.

It wasn’t until last year, when I was 9, that I became interested again, especially since my dad was hosting a money show. He would talk about financial investments often. And since he promised to help me set up an account, he told me that I would join a stock seminar with him so we could do it together. By then, the name of Citisec online had changed to COL Financial. 

I was so excited and nervous. I was in a room with a lot of adults, including my dad and I was the youngest person attending the seminar. The seminar took about two hours. It was very interesting. I learned about tips on investing and how the stock market works, and what companies were performing the best at that time.

For example, I learned that Jollibee had grown 40% from 2009 to 2011 because they kept reinventing. And a lot of people like to eat in Jollibee. The seminar was like a homeschool lesson for me.

When we got home, my dad told me he would give me a fund to work with but I had to do research. A lot of research. For one whole day I looked up different companies from different categories, like financial, services, industrial, property, holding firms, and mining and oil. All this information is available on pse.com.ph.  My dad also gave me some advice. I was also able to study the background history of a few companies to track their performance over the years. What really helped me were the charts that showed how the companies have performed over time because I could see changes, gains and loses. One company even lost 500%! I am not going to tell you which one?

Several weeks later, while my dad and I were having one on one bonding time, he helped me set up my account and invest in my top picks. I chose BDO, BPI, Ayala Corporation, Aboitiz, Globe, and Ayala Land. Recently, I also added Meralco. My main criteria was to get companies that went up steadily for the last two years because I intended to do long term investments. That’s why I didn’t invest in mining and oil. I found their performances too wild.

The one exception was the company 2Go, which I plan to use for market timing. It will just be a short-term investment and experiment. Since it’s passport season for people going on vacation, I hope that its stocks will go up so I can sell them.

Since I invested in stocks last December, by God’s grace, my stocks have grown. I’ve earned a little bit of money and it makes me more excited. It also makes me realize that earning money is not easy!

Now, when my parents or people give me money, I think of how I can invest it again or, okay, buy online books because I love to read.

I’m still learning a lot about the stock market and actually, I just invested a small amount to get experience compared to what older people do. But I put it in as much as my dad gave me because he told me it’s not good to leave money lying idle in an account. It won’t grow. In the COL seminar, I learned that inflation rates are higher than interest rates. So it’s not good to leave money in a bank account, either. 

I’m thankful for this experience. And I think it would be helpful for other kids to learn how to manage money, too. We don’t have to wait until we are older. The earlier we start, the more time our investment has to grow. 

I’m praying that my investments will grow if it’s God’s will so that someday I can use it to bless others, to tithe, and to save.

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I’m embarrassed to admit that Elijah knows way more than I do about the stock market. One evening, when a female relative asked him why he didn’t invest in their company, Elijah replied, “Honestly, your company doesn’t have historicals in the PSE yet, and if you look at your growth last year, you only grew by 0.2%.” Everyone who was within ear-shot of this conversation started to laugh out loud. I was slightly floored. Who are you?! I thought, looking at Elijah. At the same time, I realized that homeschoolers have unique opportunities that other children don’t have. They have the advantage of time to pursue interests. Elijah would be swamped with homework if he were a 4th grade student in a conventional school. However, our homeschooling lifestyle allows him to explore and learn beyond books.

Some years ago, I created a tagline for one of TMA Homeschool’s advertisements, “The World is My Classroom. Is it Yours?” Just like his siblings, Elijah surprises me with lessons learned that are beyond the scope of what I have taught. It’s humbling and encouraging at the same time to know that my children are not limited by what I can give as a teacher. This is one of the benefits of homeschooling —  children have access to a world of experiences that no other conventional classroom can possibly give them.

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Money Matters in Marriage

I am not a financial guru (that’s so obvious), but my husband seems to be esteemed as such because of his involvement as host for ANC’s On the Money program. But Edric will also be the first to tell you that he is no expert. He is learning along the way, as he interviews businessmen, financial advisors, CEOs, and the like. Nevertheless, he gets invitations to give talks on personal finance. Yesterday, he invited me to join him to give a short testimony to break up his three hour seminar. I have said no to doing talks in this season of my life (well, I have to be very discriminating) because my commitments revolve around the home. But, when Edric asks me to be his side kick for seminars he has to give, I consider this part of my role as a wife…prioritizing my husband.

So, I tagged along with him to a company that requested he give a 101 money talk that integrated family values. I am including my part of the “intermission” because his segment is paid for…mine is FREE! ;)

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Edric and I chose to get married young. We were crazy romantics like that. Well, as you all know, love does not put food on the table. Between Edric’s corporate job and my PR work, we were making P40,000, which means we didn’t have a lot of financial liberty. We started off very simply. I was very blessed to have a husband who liked to use a spreadsheet and make year long budget projections. So this is what he did…percentages, budget allocations, monitoring of our spending patterns etc.

Admittedly, I had no idea what it meant to keep a budget. My mom didn’t have to stick to a budget or so it seemed, so I thought that it was normal to be able to spend indiscriminately. She wasn’t an extravagant person so I wasn’t either. She never splurged on designer bags or shoes. My parents were not the type to buy heirloom watches or jewelry either. They invested in travel, land, properties, and businesses.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how much people spend on designer clothing, bags, watches, shoes, and the like. Fortunately, because my siblings and I were not brought up to have an appetite for such things we didn’t mind not having it later on either. (My mom still shops at the tiange and gets compliments for her clothing without people realizing that she spends less than 1,000 pesos for most of what she wears! I love this about her.)

Going back to the early years of marriage, I wasn’t a major shopper but I didn’t have a concept of what it means to plan for your expenses. It was a foreign concept to me. And this is why I needed a husband like Edric. Edric is very FRUGAL.

It took me some time to realize the wisdom behind my husband’s strictness when it came to money management. But I began to appreciate it as the years went by. If I was in charge of money in our home, we would now be in dire straits.

One thing that he did give me was a discretionary fund or a “fun fund.” It was a fund for personal things – going to the parlor, buying myself clothes, eating out with friends, etc. We have often encouraged couples to have a discretionary fund that a wife can use without having to clear everything with her husband. If I bought anything outside of that fund, then I would ask for permission because he was in charge of managing our overall budget. Otherwise, my personal expenses were not audited. I had liberty, within my budget, to go shopping or treat myself.

The second money principle I learned in marriage was the concept of “living within your means (or even below, if possible).” Because I came from a family with means, I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what it was like to have to take public transportation or have a second hand car. I knew how to do house chores, but I had no idea how hard it was to make money and make it grow. I would feel stressed when we didn’t have enough money to pay for repairs or fix things around the house.

God taught me NOT to make money my source of security. I had to learn contentment, avoid panicking that money was not in abundance, and quit comparing my state of life with siblings and friends. We couldn’t really travel out of the country. I didn’t have an unlimited budget for shopping. Even if I had a discretionary fund, it wasn’t that big. (Praise God it grew as the years went by!)

Living within our means was humbling at times and uncomfortable. I remember when I was 8 months pregnant with our first child, I was driving down McKinley to pick up Edric and I had to do a U-turn. But the car stalled in the middle of the road while I was doing the U-turn! Traffic was blocked on both sides of McKinley. I started to panic. Edric wasn’t answering his phone and I didn’t know what to do. Should I go out and push the car? I was 8 months pregnant! Cars were honking me. It was rush hour. I was so stressed…on the brink of breaking down. I prayed and prayed and after about 10 minutes, the car finally re-started. Whew. What an ordeal.

For a while I was bickering to myself and thinking, Why do I have to go through this? Why can’t we have a car that works better? I never had this problem when I lived at home! (Well, wake up honey, this is your new reality. God is working on your character.)

Although it was stressful at the time, Edric and I laugh about our adventures and the challenges we had at the beginning of our marriage. We used to park one of our cars on an incline just to make sure we could give it enough momentum to start the next day!

These comedic memories have turned into romantic memories. Seriously. When Edric and I reminisce about how God has faithfully provided for us through the years, we look at each other and say, “I am glad we went through that together.” It wasn’t easy but it made us closer. We started off without much so we had a lot to look forward to.

Many people wait so long to get married these days because of career choices, wanting to build up a piggy bank fund so they can buy a house, a nice car or two, and comforts that they are used to. My encouragement to women out there is learn to be simple and easy to please. Don’t be so high maintenance. It scares guys. They will feel like they can never afford you! Be wise and marry a man who loves God and works hard, and God will bless him financially. But be willing to adjust your own preferences. You may not get a big house right away or a shiney new car, but hey, you can look forward to those things together.

The third principle I wanted to share was lowering expectations and raising appreciation. I had to learn to be an encourager and a positive source of affirmation for my husband. Guys go out there and fight a whole different level of stress. Remember, God said that Adam would have a hard time tilling the ground!

Early on in our marriage, I didn’t know how to be a very good encourager. When Edric would tell me his issues with work and finances, I would say, “Well why did you make that decision? Maybe you should have said this or maybe you can do this…” And he would tell me, “Hon, if I need your advice I will ask you.” Oops. Verbal diarrhea in the house. In other words, what he wanted to hear was encouragement so he could go out there re-energized to get through another day.

In Genesis, the Bible talks about how God created woman to be a suitable helper to the man. A suitable helper doesn’t mean a yaya or househelp. The Hebrew word means “Life giver along side.” It is a beautiful picture of how a wife can support and uphold her husband. I am called to be a life-giver to Edric. I do this by submitting to his leadership, trusting that God has made him head of our home, and respecting him. But a big a part of being a life giver is also appreciating him, even for the little things.

When Edric would doubt whether he was a good provider, when he would feel down about not being able to give me the kind of lifestyle he thought I “deserved,” I would tell him,”Hon, I see your life. You love God, you are faithful to him. I don’t doubt that he will bless your efforts. Just keep trusting in him.” And then I would go run away to cry out to the Lord! “God, please let Edric know that you are mindful of him. Please allow him to experience your hand of blessing.”

But I made it a point to communicate to Edric that I believed in his God-given capacity, that I appreciated how hard he worked, the sacrifices he made and still makes to give us a comfortable life. Most importantly, I would tell him how blessed I was that he loves God and wants to be a godly husband and father. His face would change, he would hug me, sometimes even get teary eyed (just a little), and tell me how much my affirmation mattered…that it would inspire him to try his best.

Did I still have my dreams and longings? Of course. But instead of pressuring Edric to be the fulfiller of these things, I turned them over to God. I surrendered them and said, “Lord, in your time, your way, I know that you will give us the things we desire, if it is your will.” I would pray for Edric and commit our marriage, finances, children, and circumstances to him (I still do), and he has been faithful. I’ve received more than I dreamed of, not always what I wanted but better than I could have imagined.
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Lastly, I wanted to talk about the idea of priorities. For several years into my marriage, I was working full time and then part time to supplement our income. But, when we started having more kids, Edric and I talked about priorities and we decided that it was more important for me to be available to the kids and be at home. I am not saying that everyone has to make a life choice like this, but for Edric and I, it was a faith decision to switch to a single-income household. Who does that these days? It is not the trend.

However, we thought of what will really matter twenty, thirty years from now. I knew I cannot buy back the years of being absent from the home and missing my children’s moments. So I wanted to be present to instruct and train them. We both believed in homeschooling and that became my full time job. It doesn’t pay monetarily but it pays in eternal dividends.

And let me just say that I am never bored as a housewife. I have four kids with different personalities who keep me entertained, on my toes, and absolutely dependent on God. Plus, there is decorating, cooking, trouble shooting, and appliance fixing (I am actually pretty capable with a wrench and pliers. It doesn’t sound sexy but I am pretty proud of my handy woman abilities.)

God turned my heart towards my family and home…

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB)

The principle is do not neglect or sacrifice the priorities of God, spouse and children on the altar of money. If you are a working woman and your spouse still feels like he is a priority, your kids are growing in character and they are turning out just fine then you are one of those superwomen who can balance and juggle everything. Hats off to you. But, if your home life is suffering then consider how you can make adjustments.

Money can buy some things but not everything. It doesn’t buy a happy spouse, happy children, a happy home, real peace or lasting joy, especially if the most important relationships are neglected.

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We are a happy family, by the grace of God! Tiana doesn’t look too happy here, but she is. :)

Above all else, Edric and I have learned and keep learning that God must always be the center, even when it comes to our finances. He is our ultimate provider. He owns everything. We are merely stewards of what he is given us. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.” God delights to bless people that love him and follow him. But often times, we have it the other way around. We make money and worldly pursuits first in our lives, the center, and leave no room for God. It is a constant striving after wealth for our sense of security and peace.

Here is the good news: When you follow God and come into a personal relationship with him through his son, Jesus Christ, he not only provides for your needs and more, he gives you riches that money cannot buy. You may not become a millionaire or billionaire, you become more! You become a child of a Father who has infinite resources; who knows when to withhold and when to give; who cares about the desires of your heart but knows when to protect you from them; who never abandons you; who gives you purpose and meaning beyond the drive for worldly successes; and who gives you eternal life with HIM to look forward to.