I can make a mean spreadsheet. In fact, it’s one of my spiritual gifts. Not only does it look pretty with all sorts of colors and shading, but the formulas I insert into each cell are, well, let’s just say accountants envy me. I love to discuss finances and insert said finances into one of my beautiful spreadsheets. I’m the disciplined type and stick to a financial plan.
But, it hasn’t always been this way.
Because I’m a sucker for a new car. Gah, just thinking about the new car smell makes me want to toss every bit of information I’ve learned from Dave Ramsey and rush down to my nearest Acura dealership to get a brand-spankin’ new MDX. But I have not done that, the purchasing of a brand new car…since 2014, that is.
Budgets. They are not what you typically want to talk about. Many people think they are restrictive and don’t allow spontaneity. They feel like a burden and the removal of all things fun. But I would argue that budgets are not restrictive at all but instead bring freedom. Because what really restricts is living above your means which eventually equates to debt. And debt is nothing but bondage.
We can want to be financially free and think we are if we don’t have rules and regulations to guide us, but the truth is, we need guidelines to help us stay within healthy parameters. We must deny some things to get better things, and financial freedom takes sacrifice. We have been taught that there is no way around debt. We’ll always have a car payment or a house payment. We’ll never be able to afford this or do that. That’s simply untrue. With planning and sacrifice, financial freedom is possible. It just takes a lot of sacrifice and dying to self. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
So, how do we budget ourselves so that we can be financially free?
- Pay with cash. It’s so much harder to spend cash than it is to swipe a credit or debit card. Use cash for eating out, coffee, clothing, groceries. When it’s gone, it’s gone. You wait until the next month when you have cash again.
- Eliminate debt. Debt strangles us. It does not have be that way. Get intense about it and get it out of your life. Can’t figure out how? Cut things like cable TV, eating out and going to get coffee for $4 a cup. You’d be surprised how fast your debt goes down when you have a plan.
- Have a rainy day fund. Save, friends. Things will go wrong in our lives. Murphy will become a guest at your house at some time. Emergencies will occur. You must be prepared for things that you don’t expect to happen. (And I’m not talking about an accidental trip to your local boutique or car dealership. Ahem.)
- Be a good steward. As Christ followers, tithing to our local church is something we get to do. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Do you know how good it feels to give to someone else? Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than receive. Oh, what truth that is! Look for ways to grow in your generosity. Set up a line item in your budget that allows you to bless someone unexpectedly. And get ready to have some fun!
- Learn new lingo. We must be careful with the things we say that can elicit responses from our children or people within in church. Saying things like, “I can’t afford that” or “Wish we had the money to buy that” speak volumes and not in a good way. I know this well because I used to say those things. Now, when my son asks for a combo meal from Chick-Fil-A when we are just fifteen minutes from home, instead of saying that we can’t afford it, I simply say, “My allowance is gone” or “The eating out budget is gone.” I’m telling him something entirely different. It’s not that we are broke or can’t afford it, it’s that we have used up that line item in the budget.
I think we could all use some self-awareness when it comes to our finances. Be honest with yourself. If you’re a spender, know your triggers and be accountable to someone who wants you to succeed in this area. If you’re a saver, don’t use that as an excuse to hoard or remove generosity from your life.
The last thing we need as ministry leaders is a burden around our necks due to our finances. Spend some time with your husband today and evaluate your finances. If you already have regular conversations about this and are unified, then awesome! If not, start today. It’s never too late to make a change.
For more information about living in financial freedom, check out the following resources: