Chapter 3 addresses Divorcing Debt and Marrying Financial Freedom.
To launch this week’s challenge, we’re going to ask you to track your spending. EVERY DIME! Keep a pad / pen handy and write down EVERYTHING you spend money on for one week – every pack of gum, every Starbucks coffee, every lunch… ALL of it. Also include items like birthday gifts, clothes, and the movies; all the “extras”. This list shouldn’t include monthly bills or expenses, just your personal money. You can also accomplish this by collecting your receipts for the week, just make sure to grab every last one.
The purpose of this exercise is to gain a more accurate snapshot of exactly how much you spend and where your spending tends to be directed. Is it all necessary? Is there room to curb some of your spending habits? Did you find wasteful spending with nothing to show for it? Having some fun money is important, but you want to make sure it isn’t excessive. Tracking the spending trail is a simple, yet invaluable tool to make you aware of the changes that should be made to make your spending count!
We challenge you to track your spending and see find what truths you reveal. You might be completely amazed at what you discover. We certainly were!
The ‘B’ WORD! Yup, that’s right, BUDGET!
Do you have one? There aren’t many things we would be so bold as to insist on, but having a monthly budget, one you actually utilize, is a must. It doesn’t matter what life stage or income bracket you’re in, your budget is an essential tool for having a snapshot at a glance of your finances, meeting your obligations on time, and planning ahead.
Declutter Now! will provide more comprehensive instruction, but for now, consider these key elements:
• Have weekly categories for expenses such as groceries, gas, and miscellaneous spending (determined from your tracking exercise).
• Include monthly ‘fund’ categories for items such as auto & home maintenance, gifts, haircuts, entertainment, etc.
• List ALL monthly bills and their amounts / due dates. For example, mortgage, 1st, $1750; Cell phone, 17th, $128.
• Calculate your total income vs. outgo.
• Take all of the data above and feed it into your pay periods. It’s much like fitting the pieces of a puzzle together. It may take a few runs and adjustments will need to be made, but stay with it and you’ll get it right!
• As you work your way through the month, check off each line item and make notes /adjustments for the following month.
This sounds like such a basic concept but most people we speak to don’t have a budget yet have no idea why they’re having such a hard time managing their finances. This will give you a strategic and intentional game plan, and increase your effectiveness with your finances tenfold.
Obviously, having a budget isn’t a cure all. If you’re running in the red, changes need to be made, but at least you have an accurate starting point. You gotta start somewhere!
Don’t be afraid of the ‘B’word! Challenge yourself to put one together today!
What’s a PEOPLE FUND? Simply put, it’s a fund you have on reserve so when a need arises and you feel the tug of your heart to help, you can!
We set aside money aside every month in our budget for just those moments. Whether it’s for donating diapers, a holiday meal, an extra $20 to our waitress, a bible for a stranger, or some other totally random need, we are always prepared. Sometimes it’s anonymous, sometimes not, but it’s always a blessing!
Often, God just lays a request on our heart. We’ve learned never to hesitate.
It doesn’t have to be much, but set aside money each month, above and beyond your normal ‘giving’, and experience the joy and fulfillment your People Fund can bring.
TITHING – Did you cringe? No need to. Our request is simple. If you currently tithe, wonderful, but if you don’t, we challenge you to research, gather information, and make an educated choice about tithing.
God asks us to bring him our ‘firsts’ but that’s interpreted and looks different to each person. For us, we tithe with our money, time, gifts, and talents.
Proverbs 3:9-10 says: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”
Decluttering finances doesn’t necessarily refer to just deleting debt. It also means making sure funds are available for the things that are most important. All we have is from God; follow your heart in obediently honoring him. This is definitely one challenge worth rising to!
Here are a few basic ideas to assist you in your financial decluttering journey:
1. Clip & Use Coupons – Why not? It’s free money in your hands. Only clip what you actually need and will use. Have you considered signing up for one of the coupon services? There are some legitimate ones that charge a nominal fee and do most of the work for you. Remember, there are coupons now for MUCH more than just food and household products. Have you checked out an Entertainment Book yet? If not, now is the time! Save money on dry cleaning, clothes, activities, etc. WELL worth the cost! If you are willing to purchase up front, free services like Groupon, DealChicken, and Living Social offer significant discounts too.
2. Favorite Stores – Sign up online for your favorite, most frequented stores and receive notifications of their sales, as well as money-saving coupons.
3. Movies – A night out for a family of four can easily set you back $80 for tickets and goodies. Buy a popcorn popper ($20 investment), rent a movie for a few bucks, and enjoy the comfort of your own home –with the ability to ‘pause’! If you’re a fan of going out, be sure to score discounted tickets from the local big box store (2/$15), use a Loyalty Cup (Harkins – $1 refills all year), and even consider a Loyalty T-Shirt (free medium popcorn all year). Look for the deals and easily cut your tab in half.
4. Lunch – Sure, an occasional lunch out is fun but bringing your lunch from home daily will add up to huge savings.
5. Library – Have you been lately? In addition to renting books, do you know that many rent DVD’s and offer other free services? They also have wonderful summer children’s programs; many at no cost.
6. Shopping – Don’t go without a list and a mission. If you’re grocery shopping, don’t shop hungry. Have a plan and stick to it.
CHALLENGE FOR THE DAY – Share a money-saving tip you’ve come up with that’s tried and true. That’s right! Shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and give us your idea!
As our third week comes to a close, we’d like to discuss a passage we find particularly insightful. Read the following passage and pinpoint who or what Paul is actually pointing the finger of blame at:
1 Timothy 6:7-10 says, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Paul seems to blame money for so much…but is it truly the money he holds responsible?
Actually, he believes it’s the desires of people that are the underlying problem; the LOVE of money is the issue, not so much the money itself.
Obviously, money is necessary. We need to pay our mortgages, put food on the table, and gas in the car. We all have needs; how we MANAGE what we have will determine our success or failure.
You can’t possibly experience all the blessings God has in store if you’re weighed down by the dollars and cents of the world. The problem is most people are so accustomed to inviting financial demands, obligations, and burdens into their lives, they don’t realize the negative impact that focus and action can have.
We challenge you to declutter financially so you’ll free up the resources needed to seek the true desires of your heart and answer any call God makes on your life. FIND FINANCIAL FREEDOM! Can we get an AMEN?
Hang in there! Next week we declutter your career and workplace!