HEALTHY FINANCES

HEALTHY FINANCES

GOAL: To plan for the financial health of your future while being a good steward of what you have now in the present. By: Bobbi Reed

            Many women, whether they are single, married or divorced, do not know much about finances including budgeting. In the event of a financial crisis; disability, divorce, or death of a spouse, where do you stand?  There are many roadblocks that stand in the way of our financial health. Some are philosophical, some are psychological and many are practical.

            Your core beliefs about fiances will dictate how you earn, spend, save and share your resources.  A reflection of those beliefs can be found in your financial status today. In our own lives, I know that you can see many examples of this. Think about your personal finances and what they say to you. Do you live beyond your means, beneath your means, within your means and are you financially healthy?

            Since our behavior is obviously based on our belief systems, it is very important to look at what beliefs we have.  Do these beliefs align with the Word of God? If you do not know what the Word of God sets forth for our financial health, where can you go about finding this information. Read the scriptures below at the end of this chapter to help you expound on your knowledge. Look at what your beliefs are and then see how they have affected your finances.  Are there better beliefs to have and will your finances/life improve if you exercise these beliefs?

            Let’s look at a few beliefs that we have:

  1. Wealthy people or people who at least make more than their bills are happier.
  2. Money won’t change who I am.
  3. I will never have enough money to pay my bills.
  4. I can’t afford to tithe; I already make less than my bills.

          First of all, money can change who you are if you let it. If you have healthy ideas, and manage your money well, you will feel more confident and less stressed. If you overspend and don’t put any money away, you may be stressed all the time. If you feel you will never have enough, while I understand where that comes from, you have little faith in yourself, your situation and God.

            Tithing, if you are a Christian, is taught about a lot. It is also in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Tithing means a tenth; we are to give 10% to our church, organization, etc. According to the Word, it is to be given right away, off the top of the amount we are paid.  It is not to be given after all the other bills are paid. Now this is from the Word and believed by many Christians. I know this is hard to do. 

            How much faith and trust you have in God, your provider will directly correlate with your ability to believe in tithing. If you are trying to control your finances and don’t totally trust in God to provide for everything you need, it will be difficult to tithe. If you trust God for all of what you need, you will not try to control your finances, and it will be easy to tithe. By controlling your money, I mean not praying about it and not being led by the Lord on how to manage it. If we ask Him, he will continue to give us guidance and wisdom on how to manage it.

             Many Christians when taught about tithing say that that was only for the Old Testament church and was spoken about before Christ came to earth. That is not true and it is spoken about in the New Testament also. Believe me, we can think of many excuses not to tithe! I have struggled through many years of being a single parent (30+) and saw for myself the difference in tithing. I believed that when I had little amounts of money it would be harder  to tithe. I already did not make enough to pay the bills I had, so how could I tithe? I believed that if I was to make a lot of money in the future that it would be easier to give a tithe. That was not the case, because as I began to make more, the tenth increased quite a bit.

            I learned that no matter what I made – less than enough or more than enough to pay my bills, tithing is difficult unless you trust the Lord to provide for your needs. Again, what are our beliefs? If we believe that God is in charge of our provision and that we are to live financially healthy in accordance with His Word, then we pay our tenth as soon as we get paid. Through experience and reading the Word, I now believe it is much easier to trust Him with my 90% than to trust myself with 100% of my income. He can do much more with my 90% than I can do with my 100%. Throughout my years as a Christian this has been proven to be true.

            Now, there have been some times that I was struggling gravely, and prayed to ask God if it would be alright to give a portion of my tithe. In rare circumstances, after much prayer and guidance from God, that was the case. That didn’t last long, and I was back to tithing pretty quickly. I understand it is difficult to trust God 100% for all of your provisions. As we mature in Him, we will begin to see how He comes through time and time again.

            Let us look at what your beliefs about spending are. This is key to whether you will be good stewards over what you are being given. When God can trust us in the small things, He then begins to give us more. Whatever we are being given in this season, we are to manage well and be grateful.

            I have been around awhile, and I have experienced God’s provision repeatedly. I have grown my faith and seen Him provide for me when I did not know where it was going to come from. Of course, I did not sit around and expect money to show up; I worked and I worked hard. It was a hard balance with 4 children, but I learned that if I put God first and then family, I had a better balance of living my life wisely. God helped me because I was willing to help myself. I worked and learned how to spend wisely, after giving my tithe.

            Let’s look at what it means to live wisely; beneath my means. What does this mean? It means to spend less than you earn. This gives you the ability to put money aside for your future, while also having an emergency fund. An emergency fund is used for an emergency, such as a car repair, medical bill, or loss of food from the power going out. I am sure you can think of some other emergencies that this fund could be used for. Stay away from dipping into this account if you run short one month. Knowing that this fund is here can be a temptation, but resist. It would be great to build this fund to at least 2-3 thousand dollars. Some car repairs can be very costly. I know this doesn’t sound realistic. Even if you are able to put away $25-50 per month, it will help. Put it away in an account that you will not be tempted to touch.

            Living above your means is self-explanatory. You simply spend more than you earn. You run up your credit cards not thinking about how you are going to pay them off and the interest charges that you accrue. This can get you into serious debt and lead to many bad consequences. One of them would be a bad credit score. That will affect many things that you want to do, such as buy a car or a home. Living like this will cause severe stress, money problems and make you feel very overwhelmed. I know as a single mom, this is an easy place to get to because many times you don’t make enough to pay your bills. We will discuss some things that you can do to live within your means later.

            The third way to live financially is within your means. You do not spend more than you make but you are not putting anything away for an emergency fund or your future. You spend exactly what you make. I would venture to say that if you are not living above your means most of us are living within our means. We spend as much as we make; if there is money in our account after paying our bills, we look at ways to spend it. We look at things that maybe we have needed or may wanted for a long time.

            Let’s go back and talk more about living wisely and at least within your means. Let’s just say that your bills are more than your paycheck. That happens often and let’s make some suggestions about what we can do about it. First, let us examine our bills. Some we cannot do anything about. After paying our tithe, are there any bills that we can lower? Can we live in a cheaper place without jeopardizing our family’s safety. Is there any way we can lower our utility bills? For instance, do we have cable and is that a necessary expense? There are antennas out there for very cheap that we can buy and attach to our televisions that will give us about 45 channels. Do we really need the internet? Does our phone plan have a hot spot that would cover our internet needs? In many states, there are internet companies that charge very low monthly fees if you are on any kind of government assistance or your kids are on a lunch program at your schools. There are also cell phone companies that do the same. Does your community have a heat program for low-income families and can you get some assistance with that bill? Do you qualify for a food assistance program or are there food banks that you can go to when you need? Are there clothing swaps for your children’s school clothes or school supply assistance? If you are getting food assistance from SNAP, can you also qualify for free daycare with a licensed provider? Are you frugal when shopping? Do you cut coupons, shop the sales and be frugal when you shop? It all together can make a huge difference in your spending.

            While looking at ways to cut your bills, you can also look at maybe long-term ways to improve your job. Are there any classes you can take on the side to increase your wage-earning capabilities? What other jobs are out there that you are interested in? Start looking and applying for new jobs, after updating your resume. Put the word out in you mom/friend community that you are looking for a different job. Is it possible, without taking too much time away from your family, to do something part-time? Is there any work that you can do from home after the kids go to bed?

            Before making any changes at all, first pray. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment in the decisions that He wants you to make. Ask Him to lead you and show you what you are to do. He asks us to be a good steward of what He gives us; our provision, our family, etc. Being a good steward means tithing, spending wisely and using your time well with family and work, making sure we spend lots of time with Him. Make sure you allow alone time in your day to talk with God. Allow time to be quiet so that God may speak to you; he cannot speak to you if you are not quiet and listening. He will lead you, if you seek Him, in making wise decisions with your finances and with your family.

            As discussed in the Chapter Time Management, using your time wisely is key. If you accept too much responsibility for others (not meaning your children), it will have a huge impact on your work life, your finances and your health. If overtime becomes available at the job, do you always take it? Do you first consider what obligations you have at that time with your family? We know that extra money would be helpful, but what is the cost with your family time and needs? Was there an event that if it is missed, it will not cause hurt feelings in your children? Can you change the date of an event so that it won’t be missed and you can still earn the extra finances?

            As in time management, we have to be careful of our yes’ and our no’s. Are you always or usually caving in to the demands of your children for extra things? The sneakers that they just have to have, even though there are 6 pairs in their closest that still fit. The extra clothes, the sweets, the activities that are above what you can afford, are not healthy for a good budget. Be careful to discuss with your children that while you want to provide for them well, what the budget allows and what it does not.

            Now that we have discussed our beliefs and how they can affect our finances, let’s discuss a budget. I know that many people do not like a budget and groan when one is suggested. I found out without a budget, that many things can go awry in my finances. First off, I need to know what are the bills that I have to pay each month; rent, utilities, car, insurance, food, clothing. I need to have somewhere where I can easily access it, a list of when each bill is due during the month? Then I need to figure out after paying my tithe, what amount can I put into my emergency fund. Even if it is $10 or $25, figure out how much that amount is and do it. If you do both your tithe first (respecting God’s instructions), and putting an amount into a savings/emergency fund, you will know how much to pay on the bills. If there is left over, which hopefully there is, think about what is the wisest way to spend it? Does your family need a new appliance soon? Are school supplies coming up in a month or so? Is there something that your car is going to need in the next 6 months like brakes or tires? Would you like to take a trip with your family? Have a fund to put aside money for those things. Then when they happen, you are not scrounging for extra money to take care of those things. This is one of the main reasons for living below you means. Everything is taken care of and you have a bit of money set aside for things coming up in the near future along with an emergency fund for the unexpected expenses.

            In changing your behavior and beliefs, it is good to use an A-B-C approach. A is acknowledge that there is a problem and what it is. B- Believe that God will give you the wisdom and discernment to correct it. C- Change your actions/beliefs, starting with baby steps. Say no to the things that throw off your budget or your beliefs that are not working for you. Pray often and allow God to lead you to know what to believe, what to do to fix your beliefs and budget. We can change/do anything with God’s help. We only have to ask for it, being quiet to listen to His direction, and go forward with His help and make these changes.

            Beware that spending can be 90% emotional and 10% logical. Even when we have a budget, pay off our must bills, we can emotionally spend the rest. If we are unhappy, feeling restless or unfulfilled, we tend to use retail therapy. It is important to realize when this is going on. If you are not sure and are about to spend some money. Take a minute to say a quick prayer. Ask God if you really need that item; is it wise to spend this money. There may be something that is a coming expense that you know nothing about, but He does. Continuing to ask for His wisdom and discernment is making all financial decisions.

            Here are 6 red flags to watch out for to avoid emotional spending :

  1. Shopping as a response to a stressful event in your life.
    1. Spending to try to “keep up with the Jones’”.
    1. Seeking a high through shopping to get instant gratification.
    1. Telling yourself you deserve a purchase.
    1. Spending even when you are worried about money or debts.
    1. Shopping with the intention of returning things.

            Spending is a temporary solution to emotions, and after the purchase when that “high” wears off, the problem is still there. The root of the problem needs to be addressed. Temporary spending can bring joy and a feeling of being “successful” in our life. Being discontent is often at the heart of emotional spending. Obviously, spending emotionally will cause you to spend money that you don’t have or shouldn’t be spending. We run the danger also of putting “things” above God. That is a dangerous place to be. I know it is tempting and we all have done this in one time or another. I really try to listen to God when I ask about things. He will tell me whether it is a good time to buy it or not, it is all about if I will listen and submit to His leading.

            When you have to say no to time requests or money requests, there are some things that you can do to practice/execute great choices. First keep your response simple, while not apologizing for having to say no. When a child asks for something that is not in your budget, simply say it is not in the budget. Give them possibly a way that they can earn the money if they want it that much. That gives them time to decide if they really do want it or is it simply an impulse request. If there is something that is similar that you can do or afford, offer that as a compromise.

            In having a financially healthy life, there are many things to examine. Before you examine these areas, it would be wise to read scriptures that give you direction on your finances. Also, praying and asking God to direct you with wisdom in figuring out your tithe, a budget, and other financial priorities. Be honest with yourself about your beliefs, your boundaries, spending habits and priorities for your family. Submit all of your needs, desires, plans and finances to the Lord. He is your provision and knows what you need. Believe and have faith that He will meet those needs. He loves you, and you are His daughter that he cares for. He sees your future and knows your present, so have faith that He will work it all out. Do not borrow tomorrow’s worries. Plan for your future but live your life in a day to day need and supply. Be always grateful for what He provides and how He leads you in your faith and obedience.

STUDY QUESTIONS:

            1.What are our beliefs about money?

  • Am I on a budget?
    • Am I paying our tithe? Is it my “First seed” or from my leftovers?
    • Are we putting whatever we can, at least something, into an emergency fund?
    • What are our priorities for our lives and the lives of our children?
    • Where have we been wasting money?
    • Have we been emotionally shopping?
    • What does God say daily about my needs, provision and future?
    • What dreams/goals do you have for your family?
    • Have you made a plan regarding those dreams/goals? Does it need updating?
    • Are you praying on a daily basis about your provisions/finances?
    • Are you allowing time with the Lord to listen to his direction?
    • Are you involving your children in your plans and goals and showing them how and why you are doing certain things with your finances?
    •  Do you do emotional shopping? Why are you doing it and how can you stop?

ACTION ITEMS:

  1. Explore the beliefs that you have around money and God’s provision.
    1. Write down what your financial priorities are for your family.
    1. Write a budget.
    1. Examine how you can possibly lower your family’s expenses.
    1. Set up an emergency and family fund if you don’t already have them.

SCRIPTURES: 

Deuteronomy 8:17-18

Galatians 6:4-10

1 Timothy 6:6-11

Luke 15:11-16

2 Thessalonians 3:1-13

Ecclesiastes 11:1-6

1 Kings 3:7-14

Matthew 6:30-34