Friday, June 12, 2009

Freeing Your Finances From Being Self-Controlled to God-Controlled

I don’t know about you, but left to my own devices and my own will power, I often lack self-control – there are cookies in the house, so I snack on them all day long….I am tired in the morning, so I sleep in and miss my time with God…I am frustrated with my kids, so I raise my voice…I am hungry while out doing errands, so I pull through a drive thru…my kids ask me for new clothes with big pleading eyes, and I find myself in a checkout line behind some girl with pink spiked hair wondering when I got so old (wasn’t it just yesterday that I was that teenager???).

It really should not surprise me that I lack self-control, I think that sometimes we get sucked into thinking that we can just buckle down, exert some will power, and get it done on our own. Yet that is not what the Bible teaches, instead the Bible teaches that THROUGH GOD - through His power, His might, His strength, and His authority we can do all things. God did not create us to do things alone or to try and do things through our own strength. It is only when I stop trying to live by my own will (or my own strength) that God’s will (or God’s strength) can completely take over.

The same is true for our finances – the more I try to control and exert my will, the more I seem to be stressed and anxious over money – how much is coming in, how much is going out, whether or not we should buy this new washing machine or that vehicle. How many times have you bought something and then later felt guilty about it? I sure don’t want to count!

God wants us to trust and rely on Him with our finances – every aspect of our finances. Many times we think of this only in the aspect of trusting God to provide for us, but this also involves trusting God to show you how to use the money He gave you. Trusting God to provide then spending foolishly is not God’s plan.

So what does this mean? You may be wondering how this plays out in MY life - how do I try and put aside my own will and let my finances be God-controlled? Well, the first thing I will admit to is that in no way am I 100% successful, I fail many times, but God grants us a new day every morning (thank goodness!!), but here are couple of tips that work for me:

1. If I am constantly over-spending on my grocery budget, I start to keep all my receipts and go over them with a highlighter and highlight everything that was not a necessity, or in other words – not a wise purchase - then I total the amount to see how much I could have saved on that particular shopping trip. Sometimes just this act is enough, but other times God has lead me to gather up all those items and take them back to the store (you only have to do that once or twice before you invite God into your next shopping trip to avoid embarrassment of returning chips or cookies the next day).

2. When it comes to big purchases, I will not purchase until I feel peace with the purchase and until my husband and I can come into agreement (okay I know that sounds, I don’t know, maybe a bit righteous - not true - sometimes I totally fail and let my own greed or ego lead the way). This often means doing without something that we really think that we need, but I try and remember that a purchase without God’s approval is just setting my family up for hardship. I have to admit that this is hard – and even well meaning Christian friends can make this difficult and do not understand some of my decisions – I don’t blame them, I sure didn’t understand why God has not given me the go ahead to buy a new van the last time it broke down and it took my husband two days to fix it!

3. On payday I set aside time to deal with budgeting. This means, figuring out what needs to be paid and meeting our financial commitments BEFORE spending on things like food, gas, entertainment, etc. If we only have $50 left after meeting our financial commitments, then God and I need to spend some time figuring out and re-looking at our budget. The same is true if we have $5000 left, God and I need to spend some time figuring out where to put that money and not just dwindle it away on unnecessary purchases.

For more tips on how I deal with my finances see:

Managing our Money - Part I

Managing our Money - Part II - Spending Habits

For more money saving tips see Frugal Fridays edition from Life as Mom

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