The Beauty of Planned Spending
About the Guest
Are you a "saver" married to a "spender"? Russ and Julie Crosson live a balanced life, especially when it comes to their checkbook. They learned early on to resist impulse buying through planned spending, and encourage couples to follow their lead.
Russ and Julie Crosson live a balanced life when it comes to their checkbook. They learned early on to resist impulse buying through planned spending, and encourage couples to follow their lead.
The Beauty of Planned Spending
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, May 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Russ and Julie Crosson join us today to talk about how God changed their hearts on lots of things—
—like submission and like money. We’ll talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Let me see if you agree with this guy—a guy writes: “My experience in working with couples for nearly four decades tells me couples, starting out their marriage today, are in need of training about how to approach the issues of money. Most people seem to be biblically illiterate when it comes to that subject.” Do you agree with that?
Dennis: Of course, I agree with that statement—I wrote it.
Bob: You did write it. [Laughter]
Dennis: It’s the foreword to a book called 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple. Russ Crosson joins us on FamilyLife Today. Russ, welcome back. Julie, welcome back, as well.
Julie: Thank you.
Russ: Thanks, Dennis.
Julie: Good to be here.
Dennis: Glad you guys are here.
Russ has worked in the area of financial planning all the way back to 1980. He is currently the President and CEO of Ronald Blue & Company in Atlanta, Georgia.
And this book is filled with all kinds of questions that you think couples need to work through. One of them that I get asked all the time—that I want you to tackle—because this just puts the cookies right on the lower shelf: “Who should pay the bills?”
Bob: You mean, “Who writes the checks?” Is that what you’re asking?
Dennis: Yes. “Who writes the checks?” Well, it may not be a check anymore, Bob; because you can go online to pay your bills.
Bob: “Who does the”—yes—“the electronic bill paying?”—okay. So, who should?
Russ: Well, it kind of depends. [Laughter] Do you like that answer? Let’s start off with answering that with—ultimately, because of what the Scripture says about the man is to provide for his family—it’s up to the husband to make sure there is enough income coming in to make sure that the expenses can all be made. Now, when you get down to who is actually going to pay the utilities, pay the mortgage, buy groceries—whatever—
—then, now, you start opening up some other issues.
You could have the wife pay all the bills and the husband is on allowance. We see that sometimes—he gets an allowance every month, and she takes care of the bills. Sometimes, the husband pays all the bills; and the wife’s got some for groceries and allowance. That can be driven by temperament / it can be driven by personality. So, all those things have to be factored in.
For Julie and I—we have what’s called assigned accountability. We’ve set the budget. There are a few things she is responsible for, and we’ve agreed about that at the front of the year. So, she’ll pay those bills. Then, I pay everything else. There was a time where I thought I was going to exercise my leadership and “What if something happened to me?”—I was going to let her pay all the bills.
Russ: So, I thought that’d be a good idea—you know, let her pay them all one month and see how that went. Oh my! It was—[Laughter]
Dennis: Refresh our listeners how she used to handle the checkbook.
Russ: Well, when I met Julie, I got the checkbook and looked at it—you know—when two become one / you get married—you’ve got to merge your financial lives. I looked at her checkbook, and there were never any balances. It was just expenses.
Bob: Just a record of—yes.
Russ: And I said, “What is this?” She goes, “Well, I know there is enough money in there.” So, she didn’t even bother to kind of: “Let’s see how much money was in there.” She just—
Dennis: She was not into subtracting.
Russ: No; she was not into subtracting.
Julie: Didn’t like to subtract.
Russ: So, I don’t know—a few years into our marriage, I thought: “I need to be a leader here. I need to let her pay the bills so she’d know how to do it if something happened to me.” About one month of that was all I could handle—[Laughter]—because I didn’t know if she was subtracting in it. I didn’t know what was really going on—I’m not sure she knew.
Julie: No. My thinking is: “If you’re [$]400 to the good or bad, it really doesn’t matter. It will all wash out in the end next time.” So—[Laughter]
Dennis: It’s really not a gifting area for you.
Julie: No—no; because, to me, “Why should I stress out over that when probably I just added or subtracted wrong?” He likes it down to the penny. So, you can understand his distress.
Russ: So, back to this issue, “Who pays the bills?” The husband is responsible to make sure there is enough money there. You’ve just got to work it out. For Julie and I—it’s been great in the fact that she’s got areas of responsibility that she pays. I don’t have to worry about it—she’s got it. Then, I’ve got the rest of it.
When I gave her 100 percent of it, I was stressed out. So, I had to take some of it back.
Julie: Well, and I will say, in my defense, I do love our system; because I do have areas of accountability that—he gives me a certain amount for groceries, and for children’s clothes, and health, and—
Russ: Which, by the way, I didn’t give her those amounts. Early on, one of the mistakes couples make is the husband sets the budget for areas he has no idea what they should be. So, obviously, those amounts, she had—
Bob: Well, [$]12.50 a month for the—and I’m talking about $12.50 for the kids’ clothing.
Bob: That’s not going to work.
Russ: So, she sets those amounts. I mean—so that’s where part of the communication comes.
Julie: But there was a verse that Russ did show, and I didn’t realize it was in the Bible. It’s Proverbs 27:23—says, “Know well the condition of your flocks and herds.” Well, back then, obviously, they did not have bank accounts. I realized I needed to know where my money was going, and I need to be controlled and know the condition of my finances.
When we decided to do the accountability, I really actually loved it; because, as I subtracted through the month, I knew right where I was.
I knew there wouldn’t be any surprises. So, it actually turned out to be something I liked a lot.
Dennis: Okay, Julie, I’m going to ask you to comment on this; but I want, first of all, Russ to defend the statement. You’ve made this statement, now, twice in this conversation—that some of our listeners have had the hair on the back of their necks stand up about. You probably know what it is. [Laughter]
Dennis: And you’ve made this statement—it’s based on a premise that the husband needs to determine how much money the family needs to have coming in and to manage from that amount.
Russ: Well, Scripture—1Timothy 5:8: “He who does not provide for his own is worse than an infidel.” Okay; so, it’s pretty clear in Scripture that man has been given the responsibility to provide the income for the—to make sure enough is coming in. And that’s my context of this discussion, Dennis—is that he is responsible to provide for the family. The Bible doesn’t say the wife is responsible to provide for the family. The husband is responsible to provide for the family. That’s the context.
Then, once the money comes in, how it gets allocated should be a joint mutually-agreed-upon decision.
Bob: Okay; so, the guy who says: “My wife’s a doc / she’s a physician. I’m a carpenter. Here—I’m responsible for it coming in. We’ve decided, together, the way I’m going to fulfill my responsibility is—she’s going to go be a doctor and will make four times as much money as I’ll ever make as a carpenter.” Is that okay?
Russ: That’s a real interesting question; because, now, you get into the whole roles and potential role reversal and things like that.
I’ll just tell a story. I had a young lady call the office—she was 20-and-a-half years old. She says, “Hey, I need to come in and see you guys.” She came in; and she says, “You know, I’m getting ready to get married here in about a year. I’m turning 21 in six months. When I turn 21, I’m going to be a recipient of all this trust money.” I’ll never forget what she said—she says, “Russ, I don’t want to have happen to me what I saw happen to my mother and my grandmother—who didn’t really need a man, you know, to provide.”
I said, “Well, here’s what we’re going to do.” We designed a plan to live off of his income so he felt good about that—
—he was providing. With the trust money and all that, we used that for some really significant generous giving. That’s always stuck with me; because what she was really saying was: “I’ve watched when the wife has either inherited wealth or makes more money”—your doctor illustration—“what that can do to the man’s psyche.”
I’m not here saying that she shouldn’t be a doctor, and they shouldn’t figure out how to make it work; but this is uncovering a whole lot of other issues about roles; okay? In the book, we talk about the purpose of marriage is to model correct roles. That’s why it’s kind of interesting. I mean, early on, Julie made more money than I did—I was
a teacher/ she was a nurse anesthetist. I didn’t really like the way that felt—
Russ: —because, down deep, I felt like: “I should be doing this.”
I know there will be some listeners that will disagree with that; but I think, if you really have a heart-to-heart talk about it and go back to the Scripture on who is responsible—God is the head of man / man is the head of woman. You know, we see that in
1 Corinthians 11:3. But the doctor and the carpenter—that’s an interesting conundrum.
Dennis: So, your advice, back to Bob’s illustration, what would you say to that couple?
Russ: I would say that there are all kinds of other issues, you know: “What are you going to do, long term, when you have kids and all that kind of stuff?” It’s very tempting to say, “Hey, we’re both going to work,” or the husband is maybe going to stay home; but, “What are you going to be modeling?” That would be one of the questions I would ask that couple.
Bob: I’ve got some radio programs with Dennis Rainey—you might want to listen to because he’s tackled this subject with folks. [Laughter] We can’t be categorical—
Bob: —and say, “Here is the absolute answer for every couple.”
Bob: But there are some important questions, just as you’ve said, that every couple needs to pray through, consider, get wise counsel, and look at what the Scriptures have to say. In general, what I’ve heard you say, Dennis, is that Russ is right—there is something in the heart and soul of a man—if he is abdicating the provision responsibility for his family, it’s not going to go well in their marriage.
Dennis: Yes; and if it’s just a season, that may be one thing;—
—but if it’s over a lifetime, I’ve seen some situations that have not ended up pretty. In fact, divorce has occurred there.
I want to come back to you, Julie. You started this marriage out—you said you had some leanings in the direction of feminism. How did this go down for you—married to
this man who believes he’s responsible for your financial position in your marriage and family?
Julie: Well, actually, I got that solved before I married him; because it would not have gone well had I not. [Laughter] When we met, I was into the feminism-thing, where: “I don’t want children. I don’t want a family. I don’t want to get married,” and “I’m not ever going to submit to a man and say, ‘What would you like to do with the money, dear?’”—that just wasn’t going to happen.
So, what happened was—as we dated, I would say things to him like: “I don’t like the way you spend money,” or “I don’t like…”—I mean, I was pretty honest with him; but—
Russ: Mean to me would be a better word. [Laughter]
Julie: Okay; I was—yes; I was. But as it progressed—
—my dad actually liked him and would say, “He’s head and shoulders above the rest,” because I’d say to Dad—who never liked anybody I brought home—I’d say, “I think I’m ready to move on.” He’d say, “No; I really—this guy’s head and shoulders above the rest.” So, it was like: “I better get rid of him, because I’m not getting married; and I’m not having children; and I’m not going to be poor.” I really—
Dennis: What caused you to change, then?
Julie: God is in the business of changing hearts. That is just amazing to me, because I had made up my mind to the point of doing something—having surgery and doing something permanent to never be able to have children—because “That would ruin my career.” But as we kept dating and—he just kept loving me. One of the things that he finally—a month later, [he] asked me to marry him. I said, “No way. No; no.” He said, “Well, if you change your mind, call me.”
Well, there was one point where I asked Dad; I figured—my dad and I were very close—I said, “Dad, if I sat down and said, ‘Would you give me your blessing, 100 percent, to marry Russ; would you?’” I just knew he would say, “Uh-uh.” My dad’s a man of few words—
—sat there and nodded his head, very slowly, up and down. I went: “Oh, dear! I’ve got to get rid of him!” [Laughter] So, I knew—I knew that Russ would not tolerate certain things—his thing is smoking and drinking—and he has real strong convictions about both of those.
So, what did I do? I went to him the next week and said: “I’m going to take these national boards for anesthesia. Afterwards, I’m going to go out—we’re going to smoke, and we’re going to drink. I’m going to do everything you can’t tolerate.” He goes, “You know, if you do that, I won’t date you anymore.” I said, “Oh well!”
That Wednesday—we’re going to take the boards on Friday—Wednesday, my heart changed. By the time he got home—I no longer wanted to. When he came down the driveway—which I thought I’d never see him again—he came down / he said, “I want to know what you decided to do,” because I knew he was going to leave if I had decided—
I said: “Well, God changed my heart. I decided not to.” I liken it to Jacob wrestling with the angel. God kept waking me up; and I’m a sound sleeper—so, I don’t wake up.
Finally, after this continuous wrestling, it’s like: “What’s the problem?” I was so confused. The verse about God’s not the author of confusion popped into my mind. So, I said, “Well, if I’m confused, what’s my sin?” What popped up was—I did not trust God for my finances. I didn’t feel like God could take care of me, and I also didn’t trust God with submission. I felt like it was a terrible thing. If God had asked me, I would have never come up with that idea—where I had to submit to a man.
So, finally, I told the Lord: “Okay; I’m going to give You submission. I’m going to give You finances. And I’ll marry this guy,” because I began to realize he had everything I’d ever prayed for.
Russ: People ask, “Was Julie always submissive?”—you know—“fitting in?” No; she had to wrestle with God on that issue, and it was four nights—it was a Thursday when you told me. So, from Sunday to Thursday, she was driving a stake in the ground: “Was she going to trust God or not?” When she said, “Yes,” that’s when she decided to fit into my plans. Then, I take her—a few months later, we move across the country / cut our income—
—she quits working. And so, that’s how—
Bob: So, you put her right to the test on: “Am I really going to trust God with this?”
Julie: Right to the test.
Julie: Absolutely. Well, and I wanted to come back to something that I think, Bob, you said with the wife as a doctor and the husband as a carpenter. One of the things I’m seeing, with a lot of the gals that we work with and stuff, is that so many people—they take the numbers, and they live by that. Because she makes [$]200,000, then, it’s like, “We have to live on that,” rather than looking at eternity and “What’s best for the husband?”—which is what this gal did that Russ talked about—“What’s the best thing for the husband to feel good about leading his family?” rather than letting the tail wag the dog, which to me is—the fact that she makes so much money is not a good reason for her to be the provider.
Sometimes, I think we need to take an eternal perspective. We’re only here about 85 years: “Is this really the best decision?” Yes; it may mean living pretty tight, but God doesn’t have a problem with living tight. He has no problem with gifting and doing incredible miracles if we let Him.
So, I think there is just a caution there—to make sure that you don’t let the numbers drive the family.
Russ: And Julie said a key thing there—that we’ve gotten caught up in this lifestyle, and where we live, and what it looks like. And guess what? Our kids don’t really care. They just care that Mom and Dad are living a biblical lifestyle and that they are around. I think we forget, sometimes, that there is a much bigger issue going on here—that’s our godly legacy / our godly posterity that we’re pouring into. Money can—you know, if both spouses are working or, you know, the roles are reversed or whatever—there are long-term implications for that.
I know it’s not popular, Dennis. You said it earlier, and I know people’s hairs are probably standing up; but I would just challenge people: “Get in the Word, and look at it—even look at some experiences—look at older couples and get their counsel. Get mentors.” I think you’ll find—that the more closely a marriage is aligned with what God’s Word says the better.
Bob: Your kids may grouse about: “Why can’t we afford this?” or “Why can’t we have that?” and “All the other kids have got this”’; but at the end of the day, healthy relationships are what your kids are going to look back on and value and what’s going to keep you connected, as a family.
You know, when your kids are 30, they’re not going to look back and say, “The thing that made my childhood miserable was we weren’t allowed to have a Game Boy® or a PS7”—or whatever the new one is on the—you know? They are going to look back and go: “We were a close family”; and that’s what’s going to matter, at the end of the day.
But I still have to go back—the electric bill: “Do you write the check for the electric bill, or does she write the check for the electric bill?”
Russ: I write it. She only has responsibility for groceries, miscellaneous, and an allowance—I think are your categories now. So, I’ve got everything else.
Bob: You write the check for the electric bill or does Barbara?
Dennis: I do.
Bob: Mary Ann’s written the check for the electric bill for decades at our house; okay? And that way the electricity is always on at our house. [Laughter]
Russ: Yes, you would—
Bob: And we’ve found that that’s a good thing.
Russ: Well, it’s—
Julie: I would agree with that.
Russ: —like I said earlier, Bob, you seem like the personality—you’d probably forget until you froze.
Bob: I just have other things—
Bob: —that I would—yes—prioritize ahead. I wouldn’t forget / well, maybe, I would. Okay; never mind! [Laughter]
Julie: Now, our middle son is that way—his wife does [pay the electric bill], because she is very detailed—but he’s like: “Is there somebody out there I can talk to? Oh, well…” and forget to pay the bills.
Bob: There you go.
Julie: So, absolutely.
Dennis: You know, your book is made up of eight questions. We only got to one here; but I’ve got to sneak this one in, because I have a real bias about this question. And it’s—the question is: “How much should we work?” I really like the way you have phrased that question.
Russ: Psalm 127:2 says: “It’s vain to get up early and retire late and eat the bread of painful labor, for the Lord gives His beloved even in his sleep.” And the tendency is to over-work and think, “The harder I work”—
Bob: Say that verse again, but say it a little more slowly; will you?
Russ: Psalm 127:2: “It’s vain to get up early and retire late and eat the bread of painful labor, for the Lord gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” Okay; so, this idea of balance. There is no net good that results from the artificial prolonging of the day, at either end.
The tendency is to think, “Okay; I’m just going to work harder and make more money,”—it’s money-driven. The reality is—especially, if I’m a young couple / have young kids—“I’ve got to try to get some balance.”
And here is where it gets interesting, Dennis. The blue collar jobs, in many cases, allow for more family time than the white collar jobs. You know, if you are in a job that you could—a little more time will make more money—the tendency is you can get trapped into this: “I’m just going to do one more deal,” “…make one more call,”—you know—“…see one more person.”
That’s why it’s interesting—you ever wonder why, sometimes, the blue collar folks—they’ve got time to go, you know, they’ve got the bass boat, and they can go fishing / spend time with their kids on Saturday? It’s really interesting. Sometimes, the more affluent—the more money you have—the pressure to overwork can even be exacerbated.
You have to decide, as a couple—first of all, this decision we just talked about: “Is Mom going to work inside or outside the home?” I mean, the Bible is silent on that. I think there are some principles around God is the head of man / man’s the head of woman, and the idea of posterity that would speak into it; but the Bible doesn’t say. Obviously, in an agrarian society, usually, the wife works right along with the husband; but now, we’ve gone urban, which makes it more difficult.
I don’t think it was ever designed to—Mom and Dad get up and both of them take off in different directions—but the Bible is silent on it. So, you, as a couple, just have to decide: “Is Mom going to work outside the home or not?”—that’s the first decision. Let me just add a comment on that. The biggest thing we would encourage people to do is make sure you know what you’re really making. Typically, we’ve heard couples say, “Well, we have to have that second income to make it.” That is usually not a true statement; because with the extra taxes / extra expenses, it’s not near what you think. It may be a gross of 40 or 50 or 60; but when you start netting it down—maybe, it’s not helping as much as you think.
That’s the first decision: “Is Mom going to work outside or not?” Then, with Dad, it’s like, “Okay; how am I going to try to get some balance in my life and not burn it at both ends?”—burn the candle at both ends—interesting thing to wrestle through. I knew I’d be in trouble when I’d come home and Julie would say, “Hey, Russ, this is Clark, your son.” [Laughter] Well, that’d be her kind of way of helping me realize—
Dennis: Reintroduce; huh?
Russ: —I’d kind of been overworking. You know, we kind of go—as you said, we ebb and flow and have cycles; but I would try to make sure I didn’t have a lifetime, as you said, of being out of balance. I tried the best I could to have some balance. If I had some long nights or I was on a business trip, I’d try to take some time off; but that was Julie’s subtle way of letting me know: “Hey, Buster, you haven’t been around very much.”
But that’s a critical decision—I think two things: “Don’t think that just working hard is going to make you more money,” and try to do some balance—and then, decide on that second income—whether or not the spouse is going to work outside the home.
Dennis: I know there is another issue that comes to bear on this question of: “How much are we going to work?” and that’s the issue of debt. We’re not going to talk about that right now—we will talk about it later—but a lot of couples are getting married today with so much debt from education that they’re making a determination about how soon they’ll be able to have children, how many they’ll be able to have, and really, what the course is going to be for their marriage and family for the next decade.
I think we need to address that subject of debt. I think most couples need to have a dialogue, Bob, around these questions we’re talking about here.
Bob: One of the conversations you guys point couples to in the book, 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple, relates to this issue of debt. I would encourage our listeners, “Get a copy of this book and have these conversations so that you don’t get blindsided later by realizing you were thinking differently about money and credit, and your future, and savings and giving.” These are the kinds of conversations that are explored in this book; and you get good, biblical guidance on how to resolve some of these issues. Again, the title of the book is 8 Important Money Decisions for Every Couple. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center.
You can order by going online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or call 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, one of the discussions that couples have to have around the subject of money is the whole question of generosity. In fact, I remember talking to a couple once and they were not on the same page. He felt very justified in giving money to help support the missionary who had made the presentation at church on a Sunday night. His wife was not at all happy with that decision; because she knew about bills that had to be paid, and she knew how much money there was in the checking account.
Here, at FamilyLife, we are committed to providing couples with practical biblical guidance / help and hope so that you can address issues like this, and so that you can pursue oneness in your marriage, and so that your family can thrive in the process.
That’s our goal—we want to see every home a godly home.
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And we hope you can be back with us again tomorrow. We’re going to talk about debt, and about generosity, and all kinds of other money-related issues. Russ and Julie Crosson will be with us again. We hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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