While I used to think “tithing” was either (a) a law given by Moses; (b) only for Christians to worry about, I now think differently: giving the first fruits to the Lord starts explicitly in the 2nd generation of humanity (Abel & Cain), and tithing is explicit with Abraham. WAY before Moses ever gave a law. It seems that God’s place in our stuff is a guidelines for all humanity at all times, and the more we live into his framework of “10% for him, 90% for us”, the more we will live under his blessing of our lives.
If you have stress in your finances, examine first this: are you trying to live on 100% of your income without God’s pleasure, or 90% of your income with his delight in you? Of course it’s counter-intuitive… that’s why it’s faith! Hint: give thanks to God for the opportunity while you are writing the check; overtime this one simple act will grow your gratitude for God’s provision.
2) Do you have a spending plan?
Do you have a sheet of paper that you can refer to each month to say how much you expect (realistically) to come in, and how much (realistically) is going out for various line items. The Spending Plan is the recipe for you to make your cake. It’s not the cake, but you never remember the amount of flour, sugar, or eggs without it. By the way, the old school word for spending plan is “budget”… but that sounds like a straight jacket, when in reality, a realistic spending plan brings freedom; you know where things are supposed to go, line-item by line-item!
3) Does your spending plan reflect reality?
Put the big things in first: mortgage/rent, utilities, medical insurance, savings, car loan. After that decide the level of internet or cable, the amount on clothes or entertainment or eating out.
One way to figure out what and where you are spending is to take 2 months and record on a sheet of paper every single cent that leaves your possession (by credit card, cash, check, or automatic withdrawal). Jot down: date, amount, what’s it for. At the end of two months, you’ll know how much you spend on eating out, entertainment, utilities, etc.
Of course, the spending plan has to reflect reality… so do your spending habits: If you are stressed because you can’t make your mortgage, don’t go through the drive thru. If you are 2 months behind on the car loan, it’s not the time for an overnight getaway (no matter how stressed you feel).
4) Do you spend a few minutes diligently each payday getting things in order?
The spending plan is not going to work itself; it’s just the recipe. You have to make some bank transfers, pay some bills, write the tithe check, etc. Set an appointment in your calendar each payday to take the 4-5 steps you need to take. Stress might come simply because you are not confident that things are in their right places.
5) Do you set aside a little bit each month for an emergency fund?
Some stress comes because when things go wrong (nail in the tire, stove dies, toilet leaks), we don’t have any margin without resorting to credit cards. Start to put $25 or $50/m into an envelope for emergencies, and you’ll be surprised how quickly that builds up. ALSO: “emergencies” don’t include great sales on clothes at Target!
6) Do you spend without thinking about it?
Impulse spending is a marketer’s dream: they get us wanting something, and buying it before we’ve really thought it all through. It’s our appetites triumphing over wisdom. The candy bar at the checkout, the “clearance rack” (and the sale ends tomorrow!), the sport package on your new car (sure it adds $2000, but over five years, you won’t even notice that). If you find money flying out of your hand, resolve not to buy anything without thinking about it for 24 hours. Never be pressured into a purchase. Never permit yourself to purchase without agreement from your spouse (if married), or just thinking it
7) If married, are you and your spouse together in this?
Have you both agreed to the spending plan that reflects your income? Have you designated who’s “keeping the books”? If you are in a situation of stress, are you sharing the burden of this equally, or is one of you oblivious (likely, not the one reading this blog!) Jesus says, “when two of you agree on anything they ask it will be done for you” (Mt 18:19). My friend notes, “it’s amazing how many things are solved by dinner when my wife and I pray about them in the morning.” Pray together about your finances, and watch as God shapes things (your circumstances, your hearts, your contentment, your discipline).
THESE SEVEN QUESTIONS will help lower your stress level tremendously. If you have stress but answered “NO” to even one of the questions, start there!
It’s true that some of us have some real crises: medical bills, etc. But, the large portion of us are living stress that is of our own making. Notice none of them have to do with earning more money. Because the earning side is not the problem for the vast majority of us; it’s the spending side that kills us!
Seven questions that could relieve you of your financial stress. What do you think? What other questions could help folks? Leave a comment and start a conversation.