Fresh out of college, it did not take me long to realize the importance of finances. I originally thought my final year as a bachelor would be financially abundant. Living the single life with few expenses would mean I could buy some nice hunting gear, maybe purchase a new pistol, or even save a little for marriage. What I soon realized is the cost of living is higher than I anticipated and I had no clue what I was doing. After a few months, my fiancé helped me put together a budget. I humbly accepted her help because my budget was not getting the job done. Together, we figured out what expenses were necessary and which were not. First lesson learned? My soon-to-be wife was not marrying me for my money. That was good news. Many more lessons followed.
Debt? Pay it off
When developing a budget I had to understand what was hurting my pocketbook. It was eating out and paying off my credit card. Surely you can relate. Maybe you like to grab a hamburger on the go or buy a new pair of shoes with a credit card, but these are bad habits. I was not even attempting to prioritize my spending. One simple rule I learned is to pay my monthly bills first, set aside money for food and gas, and use whatever was left for luxuries or savings. Another rule is to avoid a credit card at all costs. If you need to build a good credit score, then a credit card may be necessary, but once you reach your target score cut it up. Lesson learned? Avoid small debt such as a credit card. A mortgage and car note is normal for a budget, although not having either is a plus.
It is possible to cut expenses without cutting entertainment.
I learned that at times we may have to cut spending in some areas. For example, my cable and Internet bill was around $130 a month. This may be maintainable for some. For me? Not so much. I called other TV and Internet providers and found a competitor to cable that could give me nearly the same services for about $70 a month. Instead of having cable in the living room and bedroom, I now just have it in the living room. No biggie. With this change I immediately saved $60 a month. Lesson learned? Cutting out costs means saving and capitalism is good because it means free market competition—i.e. lower prices offered to you.
Stewardship is biblical.
Practicing quality stewardship is the right thing to do because God cares about how, when, and where we spend our money. Remember that every good thing we have is from God (James 1:17). Therefore, we should be wise caretakers of what He has entrusted us with, including money. Scripture is rife with comments and commands concerning money. Here are just a few examples:
- “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7
- “John answered, ‘A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.’” John 3:27
- “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28
- “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.” Proverbs 13:22
- “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8
Stewardship is for everyone.
If you’re competitive, then saving is for you. For example, I try to see how many days in a row I can go without spending money. I will eat at home every day and do as little driving as possible to avoid using gas. This has proven to be a fun and challenging way to save money. I encourage you to see just how many days in a row you can go without swiping your debit card. We all know fiscal discipline is not always fun, but it is absolutely necessary. As Christians we must develop a habit of wise stewardship. Remember along the way that the old saying “you live and you learn” stands true. May we all live and learn while honoring God with what He has given us.