Christmas is over and if you’re honest, so is your budget.
I had a pastor a few years back who each January preached a series called “Financial Hangover” — which is what many of us felt after the rush to buy gifts or travel for the holidays.
If you are content with what you have, you will have less need to spend money.
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No matter your income or the choices you’ve made in the past, there is always space to start over and be refreshed. Even if you are one of the lucky ones with innate financial wisdom, there is always space for improvement. With the ultimate eye on deepening and developing your faith in a new year, try incorporating these goals for 2017 as well.
1.) Ditch the credit cards.
Whoa. This is a big one to start with, but can be so beneficial. Many people find themselves with a much larger balance in the New Year, after the Christmas season. Why not vow to put the card away? Paying off your bill is a great place to start. This will be much easier if you choose to put the card away and use cash instead.
2.) Be grateful.
If you are content with what you have, you will have less need to spend money. Some people spend compulsively out of trying to meet a deeper need, to feel provided for and secure. But for most of us, if we look around, we will see we have all we need. Putting one’s possessions in perspective is great for faith but also great for finances.
3.) Give to others.
Part of being a good steward of that which you’ve been given is being someone who can give away what you have. We all know the story of the rich young ruler who met Jesus — but walked away saddened when Jesus commanded him to give his riches to the poor.
Does Jesus call us to give away all we have? Not typically. But we do have a call to give freely and generous as Christ has given to us. Part of a church? Commit to giving. Your tithes and offerings go a long way toward paying bills and meeting the tangible needs of your community. Or give to an organization you believe in, especially those smaller organizations low on funding.
Be a monthly giver to a homeless shelter, or even an after-school club that helps kids learn to read. The point is not to give out of compulsion or obligation — but out of love, out of a place of trust.
4.) Use a budget.
Though simple, this concept is not implemented in many households. A 2013 Gallup poll showed that two out of three households in America do not budget. Without a budget, you set yourself up for credit card traps and mindless spending. A budget allows you freedom.
Setting up a budget can be easy. Give yourself space to give, save and spend. Out of your spending comes the payment of your bills, your necessities (groceries, gas, etc.) and also your “fun money,” as budgeting guru Dave Ramsey encourages folks to keep. Fun money means that when you have company, you can treat everyone to pizza, or if you get invited to a movie, you don’t have to wonder if that taps into your gas bill money. You’re prepared and know your limits, which is freeing and uplifting.
Finances don’t have to be a scary and avoided part of life. To get a handle on them is to allow yourself freedom and flexibility. Find what works for you and pledge to interweaving it in this new year.
Liz Logan lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her growing family. She is pursuing a master’s degree in creative nonfiction.