Several people have commented, contacted, or talked to me asking about ways that I've learned will help save money. That has motivated me to put some things down in writing that will perhaps give some answers and help others who are endeavoring to stretch their income. Some background first:
Managing money has always been a struggle for me. During my teen/college years if I made a dollar, I spent a dollar and a nickle (or so it seemed). When I found myself in grad school paying for gas in my car, an apartment, groceries, personal items and a school bill I soon realized that something was going to have to change. That's when I became serious about taking responsibility for my spending habits. When I married Philip I knew the ministry that God has called us to is notorious for its small income but I was determined about two things: 1. God had called us to this ministry and I wasn't going to whine and complain about the salary (this is something that I wasn't very successful in at first and if you've ever heard me complain about our paycheck please forgive me) 2. I was going to use wise stewardship of our funds so as not to bring reproach on the ministry God called us to.
Philip and I both strongly believe that the income that we receive is not "ours" but rather a wage we receive for our labors that we then are stewards of. One day we're going to give an account to God for every penny that has gone through out bank account. God's keeping account of whether we're laying up treasures here on earth or are we laying up treasures in heaven. To be able to be a good steward and lay up treasures in heaven on the income we receive means living carefully. Sure we could live better than we are living now but this life isn't about us or our comfort...it's about expanding God's Kingdom.
Now, don't take me wrong. We live like kings! As I sit here in our lazy boy with a laptop on my lap (one of the three computers we own) and look around my home I am amazed at God's abundant blessings. My children regularly comment about being rich and I gladly agree with them. God has blessed us materially, and I'm thankful for all of the "things" he's given us. But that's not where my happiness comes from. Those things break down, have to be replaced, maintained, given my time and attention until sometimes I wish I didn't have so much stuff! But what brings me happiness is because we've made some choices about our spending habits we can give to ministries and causes that reach beyond our sphere of influence and enable them to further the Kingdom of God. That's why I save money!
Yes, God does expect us to be wise to prepare for the future and we do that. There are long range plans of owning a home and moving out of the city. But those aren't the things we base our happiness or security on.
What I'm trying to say is this. As a family you'll have to decide what is important to you. Ask God's direction for every financial decision you make. Base your financial philosophy on the principles of God's Word. Realize that you're only a steward, not an owner (Lot had a good handle on this, that's why he could say, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord".) and God has a right to remove anything that's drawing you away from becoming what He wants you to be (particularly if it's taken the place He rightfully deserves).
What I'm about to share is what I've learned/am learning in this process of being a good steward. What works for our family will not necessarily work for yours. Every family has its own "culture" which means different values are placed on different things and so that has to be taken into consideration when you're planning.