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Checks and Balances

Money was never a problem for Jim and Lisa Preuett—or so they had thought.

Lisa's Side: I Don't Have the Energy

Financially, Jim and I were well off. We always had enough money to pay the bills and some left over for "extras." But our problem was with balancing our checking account!

Jim traveled frequently for his job as a sales rep and was often not home to deduct his most recent expenses from our account. With my stressful job as a middle school teacher, keeping a running balance of our account after working all day was the last thing on my mind.

Neither of us had the time—or the organizational skills—to handle it. We'd hold onto ATM and debit receipts and let them pile up for days or sometimes weeks until we'd finally deduct them from our account.

We always assumed the money would be there. Anytime we received bills in the mail, we laid them in various places instead of in one specific location.

One day we received a notice from our bank stating our account was overdrawn and we were being charged more than $250 to cover the insufficient funds and processing fees.

How could this happen? I wondered, shocked.

Jim and I hardly ever argue, but after we received that notice, we didn't speak to each other for two days! While I know Jim's gone a lot and I shouldn't expect him to take sole responsibility for our account, I'm really stressed at the end of the day, and I still have to come home and grade papers. The thought of dealing with numbers is more than I can handle sometimes. It isn't really that big of a deal to let my ATM receipts pile up for a while until I'm ready to deal with them during a less stressful time. Besides, Jim takes out most of the money, so he needs to keep better records of his business expenses. Yes, we messed up this time and now we have to pay for it, but there has to be a better way to keep this from happening again!

Jim's Side: Why Can't She Keep Track?

I don't like to travel a lot—but that's part of my job and I'm providing an income for our family. Lisa's too stressed to be solely responsible for our bank account, so I feel bad she's been burdened with this. She needs to admit it's too much for her. But she's so stubborn, she won't budge! Anytime I've volunteered to take care of the bills, she tells me not to worry about it, that everything will be fine. When I'm away so much, I assume the bills are being paid and that we have enough money in the account to cover everything. So I was angry when we received the overdrawn notice from the bank.

I've never bounced a check before and this was humiliating. I took my anger out on Lisa and we argued horribly about it. Neither of us seemed to have a solution. We kept blaming each other. What really made me mad was thinking about something fun we could have spent $250 on instead of unnecessary bank charges.

What Lisa and Jim Did

After a week of cooling off, Lisa and Jim sat down together and discussed specific ways to make sure their bank accounts were accurate and balanced. First, they purchased office trays for their bills to keep them in one designated place in their home office rather than having them lie in various piles throughout the house.

Next, they committed to recording transactions and balancing the account several times a week to keep things from piling up and possibly getting lost. Jim also beganto use a credit card for his business expenses. The card would be paid off each month instead of taking money out of the checking account without Lisa's knowledge.

"Then I suggested we create a $200 'buffer' in our checking account," says Jim. "We deposited an extra $200 into the account," which meant their bank balance always showed $200 more than what they had recorded in their checkbook.

"Having that $200 buffer took off the pressure of possibly bouncing a check," he says. Anytime the difference between the checkbook balance and the bank balance was less than $200, they knew there was a problem, so one of them would call an emergency meeting to correct it.

"We also realized the importance of communicating with each other," says Lisa. "If one of us is going to be busy with work-related issues, we make sure we know so the other one can do the bills and update the account. It's really about give and take and acting as a team.

"In Ecclesiastes 4:10 it states, 'If one falls down, his friend can help him up,'" continues Lisa. "That's exactly what our relationship should resemble with our finances and every other area of our marriage."

Lisa and Jim try to have regular update meetings where they can hold each other accountable—especially if either of them starts to revert to their old habits. A crucial verse that kept entering Lisa's mind was Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction."

"I guess we both had a pride problem by thinking we had it all together and were invincible when it came to money problems," says Lisa.

"But God desires that we be faithful stewards of what he's given us," says Jim. "And it's our responsibility to carefully manage his blessings. There's a freedom and peace that come from knowing how much money we actually have." And from knowing they won't receive any more notices from the bank.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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