As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Naked With Cash: JW

In January, shizennougyou will begin the Naked With Cash event and series. Several shizennougyou readers will share their financial reports and analyses at the beginning of each month, with insight from financial planners and other experts. To introduce each of the participants to readers, I asked them to share where they’ve been, where they are, and where they’re going, and to describe their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Meet Naked With Cash participant JW. He is offering the following introduction before the series begins in earnest in January.

I am 31 years old, married to MJ. We have a 3 year-old son and a daughter due in the middle of February.

We got married a little over 4 years ago at which time I moved to a new area where MJ already lived, starting fresh with no job. MJ was working as a para-educator with the local school district. We didn’t see the details of each other’s money until we joined our finances. The first goal we set as couple was to become debt-free. We had two vehicles, both with loans. Both of us had student loans, and both had credit card debt.

Now we have one car that is paid for and no credit card debt. The student loans are the next to go. Mine are in income-based repayment (IBR) deferment, and we are now focusing on paying off MJ’s student loans.

In finances my greatest strength has become learning to combat materialism. Back in college I had the largest DVD collection on anybody around. I only found one person who had a larger CD collection. I used to buy CDs and DVDs because just because I did not have them, while most people buy things because they want them. My next biggest spending category was concerts. I attended so many my friends gave me the nickname “Concert Fiend.” Going to shows and musical theater is still be my biggest weakness. I’ve been budgeting for concerts since I was 16.

The greatest opportunity I is due to my underemployment. I work in retail. While I have moved up from the sales floor, I am still in that retail environment. Last year, our family’s adjusted gross income was less than $20,000. We have managed to get by through the generosity of others. We are on Food Stamps to supplement our food budget. We live in a home owned by MJ’s grandparents so we have no current housing costs. Tomas is on state health insurance. MJ is on state pregnancy medical. I currently have no insurance.

This ties closely to my biggest financial threats. First would be our single source of income. MJ teaches piano for additional income but with a baby on the way that may be affected. If I were to quit or lose my job our remaining debt would crush us.

My top goal in life is to be a successful father and provide for my family, allowing my wife to remain home and care for our children. To me a father should be willing and able to provide for his family, something I feel inadequate about since our finances are so meager. We are religious and that is where my strength comes from. Many others in similar situations are crushed under their burdens while we thrive. Even with sub-poverty levels of income we have managed to pay off our car loan — we got rid of one car — and credit card debt. We tithe at 10% and contribute to our church efforts to assist those in need.

I first ran across shizennougyou about two and a half years ago, and I began reading and actually digesting the knowledge a few months later.

Thanks for sticking with this site for so long, JW, and I’m happy to see you participating in Naked With Cash!

Updated December 27, 2012 and originally published December 21, 2012.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Great idea for a series! I am looking forward to hearing more in January.

Combatting materialism becomes an absolute necessity with a family of three (and one on the way) at an income of less than $20,000. It’s a good lifelong lesson to learn–if you curb your materialism, then as your income grows so can your savings.

Reply to this comment

avatar 2 shellye

Kudos to you, JW, for your bravery in sharing your financial condition with all the readers! I look forward to reading more about your journey. Have you considered switching careers? With your retail experience, you should be able to get a teller job at a bank (or credit union!) where the hours are better, the pay should be better for you, with your experience, and you’ll get some benefits for yourself (and perhaps your family). Many people are just one illness or accident away from financial ruin, and I would hate for you to get sick or injured and not be able to provide for your young family. You sound like a pretty resourceful guy and I wish you all the best! Thanks for sharing!

Reply to this comment

avatar 3 qixx

Despite working in a retail setting i have found my way into a position with a set schedule Monday through Friday. I have not looked into teller positions before. I do have some family that has worked most of their life for banks. Thank you for the suggestion. I’ll ask them about their experiences and suggestions. I have also been getting interviews for department manager positions so i hope to moving up the ranks again and soon.

Reply to this comment

avatar 4 Anonymous

JW, excited to see your here. I’m a Christian guy and followed very similar footsteps as you. My wife is now at home and I work 3 jobs to make that happen, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. All the best to you and your family, and I’m excited to follow along!

Reply to this comment

avatar 5 Anonymous

Okay, I’ll be the jerk.

I applaud you for paying down your debt and eliminating a car. One thing really bothers me about your situation — you should not be tithing. You are quite poor. You are significantly below the poverty line for a family of 4. You are only able to survive because you are living for free in a family member’s house. How about paying your family member rent instead of tithing?

With that said, I’m looking forward to reading your articles and seeing the progress you make. I have one request for a future article: I request that you ask your priest/pastor/etc if they think a family of 4 with an income below $20,000 a year should be tithing 10% of their income. I would be very interested in the answer.

Good luck!

Reply to this comment

avatar 6 qixx

Free money Finance has a good post called “Questions about Tithing”. I looked but did not find anything on here. My thoughts are that God created all so he does not need any tithing from me at all. He said 10% so i give 10% not for Him or The Church, but so that He can bless me. In the Bible even the Widow (more poor than i) gave her mite (more than 10%).

I’ll let you know on your request.

Reply to this comment

avatar 7 Anonymous

It’s so great to hear that you are still continuing to tithe despite your financial situation. I, too, am in debt with a car loan, (massive) student loans, and a credit card balance, but I believe that it is very important to tithe. As you stated, God wants us to give only part of what we receive and in the end He truly does pour out the blessings. As I continue to pay off my debt, I continually give my 10% and will continue to do so, because I know God will provide more in my future.

Reply to this comment

avatar 8 qixx

Follow up on your request: “The commandments are for everyone. And blessing are there for all. If you follow the commandments you will be blessed.”

Reply to this comment

avatar 9 Anonymous

I wasn’t aware that tithing was a commandment o.O;

Reply to this comment

avatar 10 qixx

A tithe of 10% was a commandment and part of the Law of Moses. Presently various curches say various different thing on tithing. I believe it to be a commandement and the church i attend also teaches it as commandment.

Reply to this comment

avatar 11 Anonymous

If they weren’t on a taxpayer hand-out to make ends meet, then tithing would make more sense. I don’t see anything more than a transfer from state to church here. The fact that they’re having another kid while on welfare draws equal issue with me.

I will admit these perspectives come from a non-religious mind, so please don’t argue with statements of “the law of Moses”. Churches want everyone to give churches money so it makes it into scripture. Not much of a surprise there.

I mean nobody here any disrespect. I just see a lot of religious perspective and thought I’d offer a counterpoint.

avatar 12 Ceecee

I am glad to see you include someone in this series who is struggling a bit. A lot of your readers probably have struggled at one point in time or will in the future. This could be the most interesting participant in the series.

Reply to this comment

avatar 13 moneymatters

JW, good luck on your journey sharing and being open with your finances here on the site. I wish you all the best!

Like you we gave 10% of our income while we were still in debt to our church, and we always had enough to pay for necessities- although there were a few times when we had unexpected income coming in out of the blue that helped us out. It’s amazing how God will sometimes provide when you weren’t expecting it.

I can also see the other side of the coin – those who say that you shouldn’t tithe while in debt because it tends towards legalism, and that we’re no longer under the old testament law, but now more of a free-will giving. Of course that might mean that at times you’re giving more than 10%.

Reply to this comment

avatar 14 Anonymous

My problem with your tithing is that you’re not tithing your money.

Your tithing the relative who’s letting you live rent free – that’s their money you’re tithing. Have you asked them how they feel about it? You’re tithing other people’s tax dollars. I think you can guess how they feel about it. When you are covering the expenses of daily life without using other people, then I think you should tithe.

Yes, tithing is in Leviticus – but so is paying your debts.

Have you asked your pastor if instead of tithing cash, you could volunteer at this time? I imagine your time is limited so would actually be a more valuable commodity if you think God is keeping track.

I know you feel it’s a religious observance but you have a small child and you need to look at your financial situation seriously. That means every part of your financial situation.

BTW, I don’t tithe. And yet, God has managed to take care of me and more importantly, to help me to take care of others in the most miraculous ways. So please believe me when I say, I’m not saying this as an unreligious person.

Reply to this comment

avatar 15 qixx

My relative feels that it is God’s money and not their money. They will not accept rent at the expense of tithing. They would rather i tithe first. On your second question i also donate time in addition to my monetary tithe.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these