Learning how to properly handle your finances is hard work. In the past year I have had an overwhelming sense that we needed to handle our finances differently but I didn’t know what that meant. We had already decided to not use credit cards unless we could pay off the balance right away. We did that 2 years ago and with the exception of an emergency vet bill the day I gave birth to our son (long story for another post) we have stuck to that pledge. Other than that I really didn’t know what to do. About a year ago I tried to create a budget but I could not wrap my brain around how to implement it and the whole thing scared me so much I gave up.
My husband and I did not have any solid budgeting skills when we met. We both agreed that bills got paid before anything else but that was it. We saved if we could but somehow always seemed to spend we saved. Our finances were like a run away stage-coach. Like the kind from the old western movies where the driver bails off leaving the helpless passengers to scream and flail inside the coach as the team of horses thunder frantically out of control toward a steep canyon. Yep, that was us. We were the passengers flailing around while our lack of budgeting skills were leading us the canyon as breakneck speed. I could see the end was near, but I didn’t know what to do.
Within the past two months information about proper, biblical financial management has come to us in several ways. I enrolled in Crown Financial Ministries’ Mvelopes and Money Coaching program, our church started a 6 part series on stewardship and the biblical principles of money and we recently attended a seminar, also from Crown, called Crown Money Map.
There’s much work to do and honestly I am hesitant to let go of “the old way” of doing things but I can see light at the end of the tunnel. We will need to make some sacrifices and changes in our lives but learning to handle money the way God intended is crucial. Not only for us but for our son. I want to pass along good financial skills to him from day one. I guess like most parents I want to help him avoid some of the mistakes we made.
I have learned many things the past few weeks that I’d like to share – here are two for today’s post:
It’s all God’s.
Every penny we have belongs to Him – we are just stewards or managers of His money for a short time.
Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.”
2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
I thought I knew this principle but I had not considered the weight of it. Everything we have, from the roof over our heads to the socks on our feet is his. Our 401k, our savings, the change in the couch – it is all His. He knows about it, He has a plan for it and He has given it to us to manage. Our job is to handle the money we have as if we were account managers for a very wealthy family. How would we handle their money?
We would seek to understand what their long-term goals. We would want to understand where they want to invest and how much they want to invest. We would spend carefully, weighing each decision we made based on what we knew they wanted done. It is the same with the money we have – it is God’s and we must handle it the way He wants us to.
I would sit at our desk to pay bills and cry because we seemed to fall into the same trap each month. I’d think “We work hard for our money and we never have any left” or “I am responsible with our money and pay bills first.” The truth is we do work very hard and I was attempting to be responsible. Part of the problem was that it wasn’t our money and I wasn’t being responsible, at least not completely responsible. The money is God’s. He gave it to us as a reward for our hard work but we were not managing His money properly. Since we are married it is not my responsibility, it is our responsibility. We must both be on the same page and work together.
You must be Long Term Focused
The lack of planning will lead to debt no matter how much money you make.
Proverbs 16:3 – “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established.”
Proverbs 21:5 – The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.”
You must have a plan. You must have a budget. You must save. This is how you become successful with your finances. Everyone has emergency situations and unexpected expenses. When you plan you save and when you save you have money for those emergencies. Think of it this way – God could be blessing you now for a future hardship.
When the speaker that seminar made this statement a light bulb went on. God reminded me that we CAN save if we put our minds to it. When I found out I was pregnant and I knew I wanted to take off approximately four months. So I started saving money like mad woman and I even paid extra on our bills so while I was off we’d have a cushion. I was off four months, one of those without pay, and we had enough money to cover all of our regular expenses, plus the baby things we needed and we have some left over. (Some how though, we ended up with additional credit card debt because of that unexpected vet bill.)
The hardest thing for us is curbing small frivolous spending – the coffees (I LOVE a good latte) and stops at the convenience store or fast food joint. This adds up very fast. In an exercise at our seminar we found that my husband spends about $416.00 a year on coffee at work. I spend around $234.00 a year on latte’s and store-bought granola bars. WOW!! Does this mean I will never buy a granola bar to eat while shopping or that my husband will stop drinking coffee? No. It means we may stop for a time or we may decide there is a better way to ge what we want without such an expense (after all, our coffee pot makes good coffee and has a timer – my husband can have coffee waiting for him when he wakes up in the morning.)
As we begin to really examine our finances I have come to the realization that even though I was trying hard, I was not on the right track. This is a difficult pill to swallow and I have to fight the urge to feel like a failure. It will take time but we are slowing the run away horses. Soon they will be a steady lope and rather than heading toward a perilous cliff they will head toward the town of Financial Freedom with the passengers happily gazing out the coach windows enjoying the journey.
Do you have a budget? What is one small step you can make to reduce spending? Comments welcome!