I've been asked to share our Harvest Day. I thought I'd done so already but it must have been over on the old Xanga blog. So I will explain our process to you. First let me say that we didn't always refer to it as Harvest Day. It was pay day, just like it is for almost everyone else, but it occurred to us one evening that John sows the seed of time and labor into his job, I sow the same into our home and what money comes into this house is a harvest of our efforts. Hence we renamed it Harvest Day. It's been a great reminder of why we do all that we do and of the importance of our roles.
John works as a paramedic. He puts in some long hours. Our goal has been that he will work only regular hours. Many of the folks he works with in his unit also work 2nd and 3rd jobs. That is not what either of us want. Believe me, during our early married years he put in plenty of hours and we made a lot of sacrifices as a family for this job. Now that he's nearer an age to think of retiring in the next 5 or so years we're not nearly so interested in amassing hours as we are in learning to live on what we might reasonably expect our retirement income to be.
We work first. On Harvest Day we bring the funds home and we settle down to pay our tithes and bills.
First step: I determine what our tithe amount is based upon gross income, not net income. We set a portion of that aside to give 'to the Jew first', as scripture states in the New testament, Romans 2:10. We want to be part of the kingdom that carries the message of the gospel of Christ to the Jews, and so we donate a portion of our tithe to a ministry that does just that. We also give an additional percentage of our income as a first fruits offering three times a year during the main feasts. We allow that amount to accumulate slowly in a sub-account. This is a special offering amount, over and above our tithe amount. These amounts are determined, written down and then set aside.
Before we write any checks, we put bills, our check and any cash earned, our wallets, and my shopping list for the pay period into a pile, lay our hands on it all and pray. We give thanks for the Harvest and we pray for guidance and direction, we pray for favor in the stores as we shop, we pray for our financial state overall.
And then we write our first checks to those ministries we tithe into.
Now we begin to pay our bills. We set aside exactly one half of each our bills each pay period. We pay them per category: house related bills first, car related second and then our sub-categories. Our insurance bills are set up to be paid monthly. We pay a little more each year (about $5 a month) but we don't have a huge bill to pay every six months. Every single bill is divided by two and half is set aside except the credit cards which we handle differently. I'll address that in just a moment. We have several sub accounts that we set money aside in: house maintenance, car maintenance, AC maintenance, Taxes, gifts, etc. These are relatively small amounts overall because we have divided them into 26 payments per year. It's a great installment plan as there's no penalty of interest, lol. The last bills paid are our credit cards. When we use credit cards we write down the amount we spend at the time of purchase as though we'd paid cash. It keeps us very mindful of what we're spending on credit and that we live on a debt free basis.
John writes out the checks and amounts to be subtracted from the account. I keep a small notebook with each bill listed and the amount we need to pay that pay period and note any special upcoming expenses we might have that are unusual. This is a check and balance system for us. Here of late, with the new work schedule, it is sometimes only myself working to pay bills. I follow the exact steps however, without fail. It saves mistakes and has reminded at least twice of an item I'd forgotten.
I will add here about the every other week half payment basis: Not all our bills are due at the same time. We don't pay bills late. They are always paid on time. I try to keep track of when each bill is due and if we haven't received one, I will call to request a reissue. When we combined our households and our incomes years ago we called some of our creditors and asked for a change in bill payment dates to allow us to manage better in our disbursement of funds.
Paying half of each bill also means that we have extra cash in our account at all times. We do not consider it as spendable money however. It is truly seen as already spent and our balance reflects that the money has been written out of our account. Were we to have a sudden emergency, we could use that money but would need to replace from our savings. So far we've never had an emergency that constituted that.
There is a cash buffer in our account that we try hard to keep there as a safety net for any mistakes we might make, unexpected bills that arise, etc. There have been times that we simply couldn't hold that line, as in our recent year of trust. It was hard to watch that buffer drop to an all time low during that year despite our best efforts but we came through it and have had the joy of watching it rise once again.
What's leftover from the Harvest funds our allowances and groceries and gasoline for the two weeks ahead, as well as any entertainment funds we might have. Gasoline is a must and if the funds are running short, we won't make unnecessary trips outside of work or shopping. Groceries and allowances will be reduced if necessary. With John's current work schedule, we have one short pay period every month so we've reduced groceries for that pay period. It was necessary. We're managing just fine, otherwise we'd reduce the allowances as well.
We operate on a zero budget plan, with every penny being accounted for. This is a bit of a struggle of late as we have one pay period that is sharply different from the other due to the way the work hours fall on the new schedule. We will adjust ourselves to it and thus far are approaching it cautiously. I learned my lesson last month when I put us in a tight spot overpaying on our repayment of the money spent on the porch during the smaller pay period. We had to cut groceries down to the bare bones and even paid for a portion from allowances. Lesson learned. I have money set aside to cover this shorter period this month.
If we do have overtime hours on a check we do not generally rush into spending it right away. That is why our buffer in our account rose once more. We will occasionally use it for needed items that we'd normally not buy or for entertainment expenses but generally we do not.
It all appears quite simplistic when written out, and it truly is not a complicated process. It has been a joyful thing to pay our tithes and bills each Harvest Day and it is done quickly, generally taking no more than 15 minutes from start to finish. I can't begin to say how helpful it is to know that we need come up with only half of a bill each pay period. It distributes the weight of our bills across the whole month.
And that's it! That's how we "Harvest" our money.