Everywhere I go, folks are talking about the global economic crisis that engulfs the planet. I’m asked virtually every day where I think this is headed, what I’m doing in the midst of it, etc… I’m certainly no expert on finances and while I’ve experienced some personal fallout due to the current economy and have to make some adjustments in our current lifestyle and future plans, I’m not nearly as bad off as many are who were less prepared or are having to deal with poor financial choices that are no coming home to roost.
What follows is just some “home-spun” thoughts on what I think folks should be doing during a time such as this. Quite frankly, I think that most of this should be done whether it is the best of times or the worst of times. Biblical principles of stewardship are always in play and as with every other aspect of my life, a Biblical worldview impacts the counsel I give to folks on financial matters. For me personally, the extent to which I am personally struggling financially is directly related to the extent I have willfully chosen to ignorethose Biblical principles. Simply put — Scripture always works and that’s the best place to look for guidance in any crisis.
So here’s “Part 1″ of my counsel on surviving an economic meltdown…
1. Tithe — Always.
I know, I know….people are going to hit me on their thoughts that tithing is an Old Testament practice, etc., etc…. I think I can make a pretty sound case that not only is tithing Biblical in these days, but giving even more than the tithe is the way it should be under grace, but that’s not what I’ll try to do today.
Bottom line is this…if you have enough financial discipline to tithe, you’ll live better on the remaining 90%. Tithing forces you to set Biblical priorities (just how important IS it to have cable TV, but not give to the Lord’s work). Tithing forces us to be thoughtful (which is why the tithe check is the first thing that comes from my income — including taxes.) Tithing acknowledges our dependence on God and requires that we live by faith (there’s no faith or gain in tithing when we have more than enough…it’s when it hurts that God shows Himself able and we trust in Him.) I’ve never, not one time, in 26+ years of ministry, ever had someone come to me for financial counsel who was in trouble financially because they tithed. For those who say they can’t afford to give to the Lord’s work and in doing so help others who need help, I say that you can’t afford NOT to tithe.
2. Live below your means.
You have two ways to get to this point. Spend less or make more. It’s very simple. Too many of us use credit cards, second mortgages and delayed payments to give us permission for buying things that should wait until we have the money for them. As a result, we may extra in interest, buy things we really didn’t need and develop a pattern of materialism that is neither healthy or Biblical. If you are routinely carrying a balance on your credit card, spending more than you can take in in a month, are paying your bills late, the time is NOW to cut back on your expenses or find a way to increase your income. Doing nothing is not an option unless you want a disaster.
3. There is no shame in seconds.
Buying a new house will always cost more than a pre-owned house (you have to put up window treatments, landscape more, add things that are missing, etc…). A new car loses 10-15 percent of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot. The best-seller you buy at the Barnes and Nobles store for full-price can be purchased off EBay for as little as a buck and it will take you about 3 extra days to take possession of it. Consignment shops are filled with decent clothes — some nicer than you might be able to afford if you bought them new. Garage sales, Craig’s List and Ebay are filled with items from people who are moving, estate sales and people who are down-sizing and you can save LOADS by buying second hand.
4. Practice a Financial Fast
Go six months without buying any new clothes and insist on wearing only what you have. You won’t die, I promise. Only shop once a week. Everytime you go to the store, you are likely to impulse buy stuff you really don’t need. Decide to drive your car one extra year than you had planned on driving it. Don’t go out to eat even one time for an entire month. Pack your lunch, clean out your pantry, be creative — but no eating out. Don’t spend money on movies and ball games for 3 months — play table games, go to free community activities, watch old movies on TV, read a book, invite friends over. Not only will you save money during the “fast”, but you’ll find that you’ll be “leaner” and more disciplined about spending in the future. A family of 4 will routinely spend 40-60 bucks at a movie. Do that only once a month for a year and you are looking at $500 or more.
5. Shop with a list.
Strategically plan how you will spend your money when you must go shopping. Put a rule in place….if it’s not on the list, I will wait for at least one week until I do my shopping again. This will help develop a personal discipline and strategy for spending and planning and buying that will serve you well in the long-term. Keep a shopping list on your fridge to assist you all week long, but then stick to it once you head to the store.
I’m out of time for now….but I will continue this list later on this week. Until then…feel free to add your own ideas in the comment section!