Am I Smarter Than My Money?
Many people face money worries and increasing financial pressures. Smart thinking involves asking some tough questions and turning to God for the answers.
With the ever-looming financial uncertainty facing many countries today, more and more people are examining their money habits. What do we buy? Why do we buy it? How do we save more than we spend?
These questions boil into one: Are we being smart with our money?
We wait all week, most times two weeks, for that little email or stub that says we got paid. After holding back the nausea that comes from comparing our gross pay to our net pay, we happily deposit our paycheck, stipend or whatever we call our income into an account, unless it is already there due to direct deposit.
Why can’t it just stay there? As soon as it goes in, we are taking it out again for all our expenses that we hopefully have put into an easily manageable budget: food, gas, rent/house payment, insurance, utilities, car repairs, student loan payment, car payment, clothing, fees, doctor’s bills, etc. (Developing a budget is definitely an important part of being smarter than your money!)
In order to save more than we spend, it is going to take some smart thinking and that horrible little word known as “sacrifice.” The following questions and ideas are designed to get us thinking more about our situations, our spending and our overall attitudes about the use of money.
God is our provider
First, consider that we as Christians must ultimately trust in God to provide for and protect us, rather than trust in money and what our checkbook says.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 states: “I returned and saw under the sun that—the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (emphasis added throughout).
It is prudent to plan and take steps to avoid monetary pitfalls, but with the understanding that money is paper, and bad things will happen. God, in contrast to money, is the Creator of the universe, as well as the true Provider of all our wants and needs.
When we strive to live according to His principles, we must never let what we see in our checking account make us forget His power. We must not fall into the traps of believing that God cannot provide for our needs with our measly $10 or believing that we have gained our wealth by our own might with our impressive $10,000.
God is always there to listen to us and help us with our financial decisions and difficulties. We must listen to what He tells us about money in the Bible.
Questions about our money
Am I making enough money? This question is many times harder to ask than it is to answer. If we are digging into savings or getting into debt, then we generally believe we need our income to be higher.
So, what have we done about that? Have we looked diligently for higher-paying jobs that may not be as comfortable as our present one? (Of course, don’t quit your current job until you have a better one.)
Have we decided that we need to take on a second job (perhaps even at minimum wage if that’s all we can find) until the situation has improved?
If you are unemployed or in need of additional job training, be humble enough to look for available help designed for those in need. This help may come from government programs or charities.
Can I afford what I am buying? Here’s another tough question to ask, since the answer generally involves sacrifice. If our income is not what we were hoping, then cuts have to be made.
Are our entertainment tastes worth the money we pay each month (rentals, cable/satellite TV, DVD or game purchases, expensive sports)? Or could they be satisfied with less instant gratification (library materials, broadcast/Internet TV, free public activities)?
Do our grocery and clothing bills reflect our actual income? In other words, can we accept the best of the cheap, maybe even clearance, food and clothing? Or are we slaves to brand names and trends?
Is going out to eat at a restaurant a wonderful, rare and special occasion for us, or is it an everyday black hole for our food budget?
Are we willing to move to a smaller, cheaper apartment if we cannot afford what we have now?
The bottom line
Proverbs 11:28 says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage.”
When we put our worries about money into God’s hands (Matthew 6:24-34), He can help us through the storm as we ask the hard questions and make the necessary sacrifices. To truly be smart with our money, we must trust God.
For more about money, see our section on “Finances.”