My dear friends,
Love Begins at Home has the honor and privilege of introducing to you all David and Nicole Ranalli, a beautiful and holy couple. They will be writing about finances within marriage, focusing on the part of their marriage vows which states, “For richer, for poorer.” Nicole and David Ranalli have been married for almost a year as their wedding anniversary is coming up on November 11th. God has blessed them with two children: little Dominic who is in Heaven interceding for their family and little Kolbe James who is still growing in his mommy’s tummy. Nicole is 27 weeks pregnant and absolutely glowing! The Ranalli family shares a beautiful witness with us about how we should not allow money to hinder God’s will for us, but rather to entrust everything, including our money, to Christ. Even though the couple is working hard to pay down their debts in a manageable way this did not hinder them from getting married and being open to life. Through prayer and conversation they knew that they could work out a plan to pay off their debts and still be open to God’s will for their lives. So without further ado here is David and Nicole Ranalli’s beautiful post, “For Richer, for Poorer.”
A couple Sundays ago in the Gospel Jesus spoke to the crowds about the true teaching of marriage.
The pharisees ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to divorce your wife?” Jesus goes on to explain how this thought only comes from the hardness of their hearts. He explains how the original design of God’s Heart for mankind never included divorce, or anything close.
God intended wholeness and relationship for Adam and Eve, for them to be bound by fidelity, sacrificial love, and surrender to His providence. He still desires the same for us in our marriages.
“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder’” Mark 10:2-9.
Two years ago on October 7th, 2016, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, my husband David got on one knee and asked me to make a promise: to spend the rest of my life with him and to make vows at the altar of God. It was a glorious joy-filled day, a big glimpse of Heaven. Fast forward to today, David and I have been married for almost a year coming up on November 11th. Throughout this past year we have been gifted with many beautiful graces from the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. This sacrament has been our foundation and soothing balm in our life as one flesh.
There is so much that I could share about the lessons we have learned in our short time being married, but I want to primarily focus on one of the vows we made, “For richer, for poorer.”
This vow looks pretty clear on the outside. We made a promise on our wedding day to stay bound as husband and wife in the eyes of God through this Holy Sacrament whether we are poor or whether we are rich. However, there are many layers to this promise, including the big reality of learning to let go of how we may have spent our money prior to getting married. We are now uniting everything financial that we had when we were single: our bank accounts, bills, cars, everything.
We are no longer two, but one flesh.
“… and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh” Mark 10:8.
Being Open to God’s Will
David and I knew when getting married that we did not look very prepared in the eyes of the world. David was in paramedic school throughout our whole engagement and he was living off some savings that he had from a previous job. I was working two minimum wage jobs while also going to school online to get my teaching credential. We came across many people questioning whether or not we were the most financially “stable” to get married. Still, we knew that God would provide. We felt called to this vocation and understood that God would give us the sustenance we needed to make every decision. Obviously that means we have to co-operate with His grace as well by taking advantage of opportunities that align with His will. He would bring the necessary provisions into our family life.
A clear example of this was about a month before we got married. David finally got his dream job with a local fire department after nearly 7 years of applying to many different agencies. (It is very difficult to become a firefighter in the state of California, as it is a very popular career choice). This job was truly a direct answer to prayer and such a beautiful example of God providing for our family at the perfect time!
We also knew that the whole goal of being married was to be open to life and to get each other to Heaven. So naturally, we desired children and always felt the most peace when we put no bounds on God’s plan for our fertility. We got pregnant right away and we were overjoyed! We knew that this life was truly a gift from Heaven and we were being entrusted with this amazing opportunity to see life flourish according to God’s plan. To our surprise, our sweet little Dominic was born into Heaven only a few short weeks after his existence on earth. This was a trial to say the least. I am not exaggerating when I say that the whole experience of being open to life and seeing God’s Hand move even in the midst of grieving, was a true reservoir of grace for our marriage. We were brought extremely close through the whole experience and we both knew this is exactly what the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is all about. To let Jesus’s work of love and life flow through us and our family. We learned that ultimately every life we are gifted with in our marriage is not ours to keep. These children belong to the Kingdom of God! Every soul is made to dwell in eternity and behold the beauty of our Creator. Reflecting on this truth that we would see our child in Heaven and that God gifted us with a child, who carries our earthly DNA, was a grace beyond measure. Dominic is beholding God’s glory and is our personal intercessor, again a grace beyond measure! Sacrifice and love at its finest.
Being open to life is the least we can do. Blessed be God we conceived another little soul a few months later. His name is Kolbe James and he is about 27 weeks old in the womb right now! He is our little miracle! His due date is January 29th! We are in awe every day at the beauty of being open to life and how God has truly blessed us a hundredfold when we let Him work according to His plan. Please keep us in your prayers as Kolbe continues growing this last trimester of pregnancy and ultimately that he becomes a saint (along with our whole family)!
In being open to life throughout our marriage, we have witnessed God’s providence. Even when we have looked monetarily “unprepared” in the eyes of the world, He has provided. Never doubt His grace! He will never lead you where providence won’t sustain you.
I would like to add that when I got married I had a lot of student loan debt. I really thought, “Well, eventually this debt will go away,” not fully sure how or when this plan would occur. God knew exactly what He was doing bringing David into my life. My husband is a man of action, he makes a plan and sticks to it. Debt is not something he wanted to carry too far into our future. Naturally this would have to be a discussion for us. A few weeks into married bliss we knew that finances and debt needed to be talked about. We have very open communication and had no problem bringing this conversation up. I have to be honest, debt and finances was never something I truly addressed in my own individual life before I got married. I always had a sense of anxiety when it came up in conversation. I felt like it was a big weight on top of me that I could never get free of. I had gotten so used to a cycle of not budgeting and not thinking seriously about money.
This wasn’t too big for Jesus though. Joining finances as husband and wife was definitely an adjustment for the both of us. We had to surrender areas of our lives that we had never realized we were clinging on to. Throughout our conversations about finances I felt grace working in my heart and calling me to surrender.
Things we had to let go of
David: “EVERYTHING!”, it sounds funny but it is true! This is the whole point of marriage, giving your spouse everything. I inherited all of Nicole’s debt, it became our debt, not just hers. I had to learn to let go of various things I could have spent my income on in order to pay off this debt. It has been well worth it in the end.
Nicole: The freedom to just go shop for clothes whenever I wanted to! This may sound silly but honestly it was a challenge for me. In college I was so used to just shopping and doing things I wanted to without anyone holding me accountable. This changed immediately upon getting married. It has been a small sacrifice of love and well worth it to do so for my family.
Nicole: Probably the biggest sacrifice we have made has been to stay living with my parents in order to pay off debt in a significant way. We gave up the opportunity to live on our own right away because we knew that choosing to live below our means in my family’s home, would pay off big time in the years to come. This has proven to be true as we just finished paying off one of our biggest student loans! All because we put the extra “rent” money we could have paid in an apartment, directly to pay off loans. Small sacrifice for a great reward.
Practical Budgeting Tips
First, we decided to come up with a game plan. We read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” book and let me tell you that book kicked me in the behind! It really motivated us to change our financial habits dramatically. Our next move was to budget, to set aside allocated money in a whole slew of necessary categories (gas, groceries, rent, car insurance, etc). Our goal was not to live paycheck to paycheck, but to plan ahead for the coming month’s expenses and to ultimately pay off debt. This was a huge adjustment for both of us, as we were so used to living a single life and not really thinking about how our money was being spent day to day. So combining all of our money was one thing and now came the reality of budgeting. We did this all about 2 weeks into being married. David found a really great online budgeting tool called “YNAB (You Need A Budget).” That tool has been a game changer for us because it made budgeting so much easier and a lot less stressful.
Throughout all the logistics and practicalities of managing finances and budgeting as a married couple we know the most important thing that we have learned is to truly abide by the vows we took on our wedding day, “For richer, for poorer,” being one of them. Learning these day to day lessons about finances and money has really been a true lesson in surrendering to God’s plan for our marriage, which we believe is built upon His Providence for us as a Good Father. Taking these vows at God’s altar over a crucifix has been a daily reminder that God is in control, of our finances, our lives, our living situation, everything. It has been nothing short of grace filled. I must say it has not come without challenge. We have had to learn to unite our lives in all aspects, but the greater the surrender, the greater the grace and more abundant is the blessing that comes with that grace.
David’s practical budgeting tips:
- Communication – This one is crucial. Without communication between you and your spouse, your budget will suffer. Spend time talking to each other about the importance of budgeting and how it will help you achieve your future goals. Get on the same page with how you will budget, what tools you will use, and how much you are going to budget for each category of spending. Once the initial setup is completed, plan “budgeting dates” periodically to check on your spending, savings, and goals. Nicole and I always budgeted every 2 weeks since this is when we got paid. I recommend coordinating it with your paychecks whether it is weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Also, try to ensure both spouses know how to practically manage the budget (entering expenses, adjusting categories, etc) and that you are doing this together. This helps you both stay on the same page with your goals and creates a sense of unity.
- Be Flexible! – Change will happen. You will go over in spending. Your goals may change. Don’t be afraid of this! When Nicole and I first started talking about budgeting, I thought of restrictive categories with set amounts. How could we possibly plan for all the unexpected events that would occur during an entire month. I didn’t want to fail at budgeting… I wanted to succeed! Fortunately this fear of mine was put to rest after getting some great advice from the various posts on the YNAB blog. We eventually learned that budgeting wasn’t some hard set of numbers we couldn’t surpass, but it was more of a system that identified our priorities and helped us achieve them. We learned to be flexible with the changes. So if we over spent in groceries one month, we probably had to eat out less that month to make up for the difference. This method helped us to stay on track when unexpected things came up.
Nicole’s practical budgeting tips:
- Give every dollar a job – Builders don’t just build blindly, they have a blueprint to refer back to! Have a written budget. Something concrete that has given every dollar of your income a purpose, whether it’s online or on paper. The most important thing is to tell your money where it’s going versus having it tell you. Do this with all your money, including savings and checking. Know what you are saving for instead of just blinding saving money. Like David mentioned earlier, naturally there will be times when life happens and you go over budget in certain areas and you have to be flexible. The point is to at least give your money a place to go and sticking to a concrete budget. At first this will be a learning process and this process will reveal your habits of spending. Be sure to communicate with your spouse and always budget together! This has been extremely helpful for us to both be on the same page when it comes to the places we are putting our money. This has actually been a life changer for us. It has helped us practice financial discipline. It builds confidence and most importantly it fosters constant communication about how we are spending our money. You will not regret creating this financial blueprint!
- Pray about your finances together – Ultimately this is God’s money not yours. However, you are definitely a steward of it, therefore asking God what He wants you and your family to do with your money is essential. This includes being generous with money, tithing, donating, etc. This is an area that David and I have to always come back to because it can be very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this money is totally ours. Even if our prayer is simple and short, the most important thing is just to acknowledge that this money is a gift. We often just have to ask the Holy Spirit to teach us what to do! He will show us. Praying over your money and where it should go will rightly order your mindset and keep you grounded to know where it came from in the first place. When it comes to praying about finances with David, I have always been reminded of the Scripture where Jesus reminds us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:19-21.
So these vows, “For richer, for poorer” are just one of the many vows we took on that Holy day and they have truly been such a beautiful reminder of the promise we are living every day. To unite not just our finances, but to ultimately unite our trust in our Good Father’s providence for our marriage and family. He provides for all of our needs. We have learned how important it is to give each other all of ourselves in marriage, not withholding anything, money, possessions, everything we thought we owned prior to marriage. God has called us to a great vocation of sacrificial love, resembling the way He offered His Love on the cross. Without reserve. To abide by the law of love and service to one another.
Jesus’s yoke really is sweet.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:28-30.
“For Richer, For Poorer.”
Nicole and David Ranalli