I’m not a financial expert. In fact, my wife laughed out loud when she learned that I would be writing on the subject of money. Two master degrees and four children later we have debt. We have little in our savings account. We just purchased a new home which ate up much of our savings and put us into deeper debt. Regardless of my lack of financial wisdom, I know that good financial stewardship is important to God and our usefulness in God’s kingdom.
So this week, I thought we would get practical. After surfing the internet and the many quality web sites and books that offers guidance on financial stewardship, here is some of the best advice I have found that relate well to young adults in differing life stages. I pass these on to you, with my commentary:
Get Out of Debt – It is hard to do. I would love to get out of debt. But over and over again this was the advice that was primary among the experts. Then stay out of debt. This not only reduces stress but also “increases income.” I can’t say I know how to do it. Find a good credit counselor or attend Financial Peace University. These are good places to begin. We have to begin somewhere.
Save All You Can – As mentioned last week, John Wesley’s admonishment to “Save all you can” is really about spending less. Frugality is key. Yet knowing when not to spend is a better habit to learn. To live on what we need and not what we want is a difficult lesson. We can also save by paying ourselves. We can set aside even just a little bit each week to build up savings and interest.
Benefit From the Benefits – We can take advantage of the many little ways to save and cut corners. We can use direct deposit and resist the temptation of getting back “extra cash.” We can skip the ATM, avoiding fees and cutting back on impulse purchases and expenditures. Also, we can take advantage of the cost-saving benefits our employers may offer like wellness benefits, educational reimbursements and flexible spending. Also be sure to take advantage of all your pre-tax options.
Talk with Your Partner – We should talk to our life partner, be that our spouse or the person we are currently dating. When dating talk about how your parents handled finances. Know the “financial personality” of the person holding your hand and sharing your bank account. “Spenders” who marry “savers” need to allow for each person’s view of money but also set guidelines together.
Budget – This one is difficult. In the end it will help us live within our means. It will help us make better decision for our future. Budget for now and for later. It also helps us from making major purchases too soon. If your budget dictates you can’t afford a new car right now, even if the old one just quit, another way may be provided. Perhaps a friend or family member will offer a used one that will work perfectly or someone will know how to fix the old one when they discover you’re missing at those meetings and events. If all else fails, borrow – car, lawn mower, baby crib, TV. Lend your things too.
Eat In – 58% of people say they have a budget. 21% say they spend more than the budgeted amounts. The #1 budget-killer is eating out. Be wise. Let’s find creative ways to have fun after we eat in. Also make a weekly or monthly menu to plan ahead when you shop for groceries. Eat leftovers even. This will save us fistfuls of dollars.
Enjoy Working – Read John Wesley’s sermon “The Use of Money.” Working hard should bring us joy as we do what God has called us and gifted us to do in our vocations. We make money by working hard. Money is the result of service and work. Earn a fair wage for a fair days work. We shouldn’t expect mom and dad, extended family, or Uncle Sam to carry the load we should be carrying. When you enjoy your work, getting paid is like a blessed bonus.
Give – This wasn’t found in most expert advice. If it was mentioned it fell under that category of “tax benefits.” That’s fine. However, there are benefits to giving, both financially and for our own well-being. Of course, we should give our tithes and offerings to support our local church. Pay God first before we spend on anything else. God seems to bless those who give to others. God loves a cheerful giver (I didn’t make that one up on my own).
There is no formula for financial success. The advice of books and experts can only go so far. It is up to us to live in ways that show good stewardship. Good financial stewardship is not only a reflection of our bottom line it is also a reflection of our priorities and our values. I hope I can take some of my own advice.
Question: What can we do everyday to be good stewards?
See more devotions from Chris and our other Young Adult writers, or find our how you can become a writer yourself at our By Young Adults for Young Adults devotion page.