Financial security is more dependent on how you spend then on what you earn. Stop and think about that. Do you believe it? For years I always thought “if we can just make $$___ more, everything will be fine”. Yet, when we made more, somehow the dollars did not stretch as I had planned. So, focusing on what we spend our money on and how we make decisions on what to spend our money on seems to the first step to achieving financial security. Here are some really easy tips to help you spend less.
1. Have a meal plan – whatever that may look like for you.
2. Have one shopping day a week.
Pick a day that you are going to have the time to devote to the task and not feel rushed, and always remember to eat before you leave (to avoid hunger shopping). Always have a list of all needed items for your meal plan and to re-stock your kitchen and pantry to avoid having to go back mid-week. If you truly can not go all week without replenishing perishables (those of us with a large families), have one other day put aside for buying more milk, fruits and so on, but remember, this is only a replenishing your fridge day, no more. Keep your eyes on the milk!
3. Have a plan to avoid impulse buying!
Our goal is that our finances will be God lead and God controlled, if we are rushing off and doing our own thing and making quick decisions, we are often not allowing the Holy Spirit to speak into our lives. I don’t know about you, but a lot of things can sound good to me when two of my kids are trying to convince me that some item is necessary, while the other two are bickering in the background, my cell phone is ringing, the person in line in back of me has a crying baby and all I can think of is getting out of that store as quickly as possible.
Some people have more problems then others with impulse buying, and often within a marriage there is a division, with one person being more the spender and one person more conservative with spending. No matter where your marriage falls, having an agreed upon plan of action can help avoid serious conflicts and problems in the future.
You need to have a plan for both small and large purchase items, even though it is more obvious if we spend foolishly on a large purchase, often it is small purchases that add up that get us into trouble. For all items, big or small, I go through this list:
1. Do I need this item?
2. Can I afford this item?
3. Is purchasing this item going to save me money (now or in the future)?
4. Is this item going to contribute to the health and happiness of my home?
5. In buying this item am I being a good steward with my money?
If you can answer YES to all 5 questions – go ahead and purchase the item.
If you can only answer YES to 4 of the questions, say a quick prayer that God will lead your decision and wait at least 10 minutes before making your final decision. If you feel convicted to put the item back, then DO IT. If you feel good about the purchase, then go ahead and buy it.
If you can only answer YES to 3 of the questions – PUT THE ITEM DOWN AND WALK AWAY. Do not try and talk yourself into the purchase, why you need it, or so forth. Walk away and ask God to either change your heart or show you the right time to purchase the item.
I believe that going though these questions diligently before buying items – both big and small – will help you avoid over spending and more importantly, your finances will start to be God lead, not self lead.
When making decisions about bigger items you should have a pre-agreed upon plan and time limit (from when you first recognize that you need the item, to the date in which you will meet again and talk about the purchase). When I say bigger items, I am not talking about your ever growing food bill or your always empty gas tank, I am talking more about consumer purchases. Examples of consumer purchases can be smaller like buying new bikes or a computer, to larger purchases like buying new furniture or appliances, re-modeling your home, or purchasing a new vehicle. How many times have we walked into a store and seen some item on sale (that we may even need) and bought it impulsively that pulled us into debt or caused us financial hardship.
Sometimes it is hard to be convicted of bad spending when life is noisy and busy. Sometimes I can feel God convicting me while I stand in the store contemplating a buy, but often my own desires can shout louder and it is not until a quieter time that God convicts me that I really don’t need it or that now is not the time to buy. Because of this, I always wait at least one full day before buying larger purchases so I can invite God to have a say in my purchase. Recognizing that every dollar is a gift from God is important (and the most talked about) – but recognizing that God has an opinion on EVERY purchase we make is equally important. It isn’t just about money, bills or budgeting, it is about allowing our spending to be God lead and God controlled.
Managing our Money – Part 1