I am always amazed at how we learn to make choices about spending our money. I was talking to a student who said he ended up not attend a regional SALT conference in his area of the country because of money. SALT stands for Student Activist Leadership Training, and is the name of the regional leadership conferences National Chi Alpha offers every year in seven regions of the country during the Christmas-New Year’s break.
He had told me he wanted to deepen his faith and I suggested he attend SALT. At first, he said was interested and registered on line to go to the conference. Then after finals he flew home and discovered he had overspent on Christmas gifts and had no money. He even had to pay a penalty when he learned his bank account was in trouble because he had not been keeping his account balanced. He was grounded at home, and was lucky some of his relatives gave him money as a present, because it enabled him to get back to school for the winter semester with a few bucks in his pocket.
He came to me for help and we sat and talked about his budget. “Budget, what’s that?” he replied. I was not surprised to learn he did not handle his finances in any meaningful manner until he got a warning from the bank that his account was overdrawn (again) and he slowed down. But the pattern had been set, and now he needed to start a new one.
I told him he needed to establish a budget and review process and he agreed. He asked where do we start? I said the first step is to write down a plan on how much money he had coming in and how he wanted to allocate it. A budget is a game plan where you tell your money what you want to do with it. The idea is to be purposeful with every dollar.
Second, use the envelope system. Take some envelopes and write on them the categories of expenditures you agree to. The key is to only use the allotted amount to purchase specific things allowed in the category. If the envelope is empty, you do not get to buy anything else in that category until money is put back in. Simple enough, right? Have an envelope for saving for a rainy day (i.e., special need or emergency) too.
Third, avoid people and places that tempt you to spend. If you have trouble sticking to a budget, it may be because you are immature. It may also be because you cannot avoid going to mall with friends who have sloppy financial management skills, and none of you have much restraint. The money you earn should be able to last to the next paycheck.
Fourth, stay motivated and do not give up. A budget is a tool designed to help you manage your financial resources. Set financial goals for the semester and review it monthly (at least). Ask someone to hold you accountable for your spending habits. A budget is a tool you utilize to help you control your spending urges so you live within your means and ensure a balanced approach to giving, saving, and spending.
Read Luke 16:9-12. Handling money is a spiritual matter. The young man I spoke with is determined to get better at handling his finances. I reminded him not to dwell on failures of the past or the fear that he would not be able to get a better handle on his finances. I then challenged him to walk wisely. God wants all of us to learn obedience and faithfulness in financial matters, because it is an indicator of our spiritual health.
Love is a verb,