“Hope and Help for the Financially Stressed”
A summary of CCEF booklet by James C. Petty
- When you are financially stressed, it is easy to become consumed by your worries and fears.
- Jesus knows this, so he reminds us not to “set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.
- Your financial troubles take place in the larger story of our all-powerful God’s plan to redeem you in and through your unique trials.
An Opportunity to Gain the True Wealth of Contentment
- True contentment is usually learned on the down cycle – in loss, deprivation, and financial need.
- True contentment doesn’t come from our circumstances; true contentment comes from Jesus.
- Our identity, hope and the sense of well-being do not come from what we own or what goals we achieve, but come from our relationship with our heavenly Father, who loved us and gave his Son to us.
An Opportunity to Examine What Money Means to You
- If you are relying on money to provide you with security, identity, comfort, and purpose, you are using money to find life apart from God.
- Apart from going to Jesus in repentance and faith, all of our efforts to reform ourselves will fail.
- The knowledge of God’s love for us in Christ and a turning to him for life, we will be liberated from bondage to our fears and our desires for what money provides.
An Opportunity for a New Perspective on the Purpose of Money
- Learning godly contentment will free you for another opportunity: to gain a new perspective on God’s purpose for money.
- The money God grants us as a fruit of our labor is given that we might love our “neighbor” as we love ourselves.
- We work hard not only to provide for ourselves and our dependents, but also to help the weak, the lost, and the needy.
PRACTICAL STRATEGIES FOR CHANGE
An Opportunity to Develop Wise Spending Habits
Step One: Assess Your Financial Situation
- Start by gathering your financial information.
1. Add your total deposits from all sources of income.
2. Subtract from this total any deposits that were not income (like transfers into the account from savings, home-equity loans, or other loans), so you can determine your actual net income for the year.
3. Add your total expenditures, including checks, ATM withdrawals, and electronic debits that were deducted from your bank account(s).
4. Subtract your total expenses from your true income (figured in the first two steps of this exercise) to get your net gain or loss for the year.
Step Two: Plan Your Spending
- Project your income
- Project your expenses
1. Fixed Expenses: list all expenses that are fixed by someone else (mortgage, utility bills, auto payment, insurance, etc) or fixed by you (tithes to your church, savings plan, etc).
2. Variable Expenses: list expenses you have some control over (groceries, eating out, vacations, clothing, etc)
- Reconcile income and expenses
- Seek help
- Develop more income
Step Three: Put Yourself on an Allowance from Your Bank
- Open a second bank account with no overdraft protection and no bult-in credit line.
- Continue to deposit all your income into your original checking account. From that account pay only fixed expenses. Do not pay for any items on the list of variable expenses from this account.
- Twice each month, make a deposit (or transfer) from your original checking account into the new bank account. This deposit should be the amount equal to half of one month’s variable spending.
- Use only this new account to pay for items listed in your variables expenses. When the money in the account is used up, you will be forced to stop spending.
- If you have a long history of rigidly paying off credit-card charges each month you could keep using them; but if you are in credit-card debt, cut up your cards and get a debit card for each checking account.
- Resist the temptation to pay variable bills with the fixed account funds.
- Be accountable. Ask a deacon, elder, friend, spouse, or counselor to look at your bank statement each month, give advice, and pray with you.
- After a year on this plan, if you have built up a surplus in the fixed account, transfer it to a savings account.
Once the debt has been paid off, you can begin to set more thoughtful long-term goals or adjust those goals to meet the expenses you envision in the future – children’s college education, more adequate insurances, retirement investing, and increased giving.
Stepping into God’s will for your finances will fill you with a new contentment and joy as you find true life in God, whom to know is life indeed.