Last week, I touched on 7 reasons we single Christians need to get our finances under control. The seventh one, not in the list of six, was, “If you plan to ever get married.”
Marriage has built-in pressures and difficulties. Finances always seem to make the top 3 to 5 reasons marriages get into more trouble. Financial problems add unnecessary burdens. It seems to me that the best time to deal with financial problems in marriage is before you get married. Does that make sense?
So let’s talk a little more about financial issues.
Let’s start with last week’s homework assignments. How did you do on writing down all your expenses and categorizing them, and on tracking every last one of your expenses?
These are real life exercises I use in my one-to-one financial counseling where I work in mental health. I use them because they are first steps in becoming aware and accountable. For the believer, here is where we start accounting to the Lord for all that He has given us to manage for Him.
When you line up all your expenses in the order that you spent the money, you will identify patterns of spending that reveal important things about you and your priorities. Think: awareness.
Do you always eat out a huge meal the night you get paid? Do you tithe last, after you pay all your bills and leisure activities and determine you have a few extra dollars to spare? Do you grocery shop before paying the rent? Are you having trouble making your car payments because you’re behind on paying those cash advance places? Do your broke family members or friends come hanging around on your payday because they know you’re a pushover for giving away dollars for their sob stories? When was the last time your credit cards were all paid off?
One guy I worked with realized that every time he got off the bus after work, he would stop at the convenience store, buy a soda and a candy bar, and head home. Each day, he spent $1.89 + $1.49 = $3.38. $3.38 x 4 days a week = $13.52 a week. $13.52 x 4 weeks a month = $54.08. It adds up. Since he was only making minimum wage, he realized he was wasting precious dollars trying to console himself for working so cheaply. And he was interfering with his own ability to pay his bills in a timely manner.
Creating categories for all your expenditures helps you realize not only what you actually spend your money on, but what you’re spending too much on, and what needs to be a priority. Don’t forget annual expenditures like memberships, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases, subscriptions, car registrations, property taxes if they’re not rolled into your mortgage, and vacations.
There just might be a connection between your being behind on paying your bills by $100 every month and spending $100 on lottery tickets. Or on consuming your favorite junk food. Or adding to your collection. Or whatever.
Your written categories are the beginnings of a budget. A budget is not a punishment or restriction to spending your money. It is a plan for helping you spend your money wisely and getting your needs met. Your responsibility is to adjust and finalize your budget so you can start using it as a spending plan.
Meanwhile, maybe you could explore healthy and cheap or free options for developing coping skills for stress and anxiety. That’s another article for another day!
Two basic principles almost all financial websites for individuals and families state everywhere, is
1) get out of any debt not related to your mortgage and, possibly, your education, as soon as you can; and
2) be sure to have enough in emergency savings to support yourself and/or your family for 3 to 6 months.
I got out of debt by paying off the smallest debt first, then applying the payment from that now-former debt toward the next biggest debt until I paid it off. And I kept doing that till all my debts were paid. When I’d paid off all my debts, I increased my savings.
If you owe a substantial amount, you may want to consult with a Christian-based, non-profit credit repair group who can help you create a personal plan for getting out of debt, for free.
Developing a realistic budget, getting out of depreciating debt, paying living expenses in a timely manner without borrowing, developing an emergency savings fund, planning for retirement, and perhaps looking into some investments, are super ways to honor the Lord with your finances while you are single.
I hope you will pray and seek God’s guidance as well as the help and support of godly friends, perhaps even a Christian financial counselor, to get your finances in order before you start dating or get engaged. That way you two can be used of the Lord together to bless others and further His kingdom.
Proverbs 10:4-5, 16, 11:15, 13:22, 21:5; Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 6:10
Andriani, Lynn. 5 things every single woman should know about money. Article for Oprah.com. 11/22/11. http://www.oprah.com/money/single-women-and-money-finance-advice-for-singles accessed 3/4/17
Deal, Ron L. Money questions for dating couples. Article for crosswalk.com 7/11/12. http://www.crosswalk.com/family/finances/budget/money-questions-for-dating-couples.html accessed 3/4/17
Kluth, Brian. 30 Biblical principles for financial peace and freedom. His personal website. http://kluth.org/church/30FinancialFreedomAndPeace2.htm accessed 3/4/17
Moodie, Walter & Hoos, Glen. Money management for the Christian family. Article for Familylifetoday.org 2003, originally posted by Family Life, Canada. http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/challenges/finances/money-management-for-the-christian-family accessed 3/4/17
Ramsey, Dave. Website. http://www.daveramsey.com/ accessed 3/11/17
Sylvestre-Williams, Renee. 10 things debt free people do. Article for Forbes.com. 7/30/12. https://www.forbes.com/sites/reneesylvestrewilliams/2012/07/30/ten-traits-of-debt-free-people/#17dbe8f440e1 accessed 3/4/17
Two places to get your taxes done free:
1) VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Association), if your taxes are simple and your total income last year was under $50,000. They can go back one year if you tried to do your taxes yourself and messed up (like I did in college) and help you figure out if you are entitled to more of a refund. See https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/
2) AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). You do not have to be a member of AARP or even over 50 to access their services. Their income limit is $64,000. I was told they do more than simple basic taxes, and they can also go back one year. https://secure.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action