I had high hopes of making financial progress while working from home since March. I have a good job, a stable marriage, and good friends. Unfortunately, my wife and I blew through money and took on some consumer debt. We need a financial reset. What is step one?
Dear Financially Stuck,
The Coronavirus has impacted everybody in a variety of ways. For many, it has been a time to decrease spending and increase savings. For others, they feel as if they are going backward.
Certainly having a good job, a stable marriage, and good friends can be counted among your blessings. Let me give you step one and a few more to help you get unstuck.
Become a Faithful Steward
When we see ourselves with a proper identity as God’s steward, we begin to think and act differently with money. God is the owner and we are his temporary managers. Our true riches are not on Earth. Our goal is not financial success, but to be found faithful to our Provider.
Becoming a faithful steward takes practice. Lots of practice! Think about toddlers. They learn to walk by taking one step at a time. They fall a lot, but pull themselves up and try again. They get to where they want to go with determination and the encouragement of others.
It is not unusual for people to spend more money than they wish during stressful times. However, research verifies that people who carry debt have higher rates of depression and anxiety than those who are debt-free. A recent survey showed that 42% reported debt as a source of high or moderate anxiety.
If you’ve developed some bad financial habits since the Coronavirus hit, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, I want you to practice becoming a faithful steward. Set goals, break bad habits, and adopt new ones in order to get your finances in order.
Step One: Gain Control Over Your Spending
The first thing to do is to get impulse spending under control. Cancel any buy-now-pay-later accounts and remove your credit card from online shopping websites. Learn what your spending triggers are. Is it hunger, stress, boredom, or fear-of-missing-out (FOMO)? Notice what motivates your spending. Identify patterns. Look back over your credit card and bank statements. When, where, and why did you make impulsive purchases? Take note and avoid these situations as you move forward.
Unsubscribe from emails that tempt you to spend money. Don’t browse online. Instead, go for a walk, read a book, or clean a closet and donate things you don’t need.
If you do shop online, save items you want, then let a day or week go by before making the purchase. During this time, you can gain clarity to determine if items are true “needs” or if they are simply “wants.”
Step Two: Create Financial Margin
Create some financial margin to avoid going further into debt. Automate your savings so you have less to spend. Any extra income that comes your way should have a destination: giving, saving, paying down debt. Once you finish paying off one debt, then apply that money towards another one with the goal of eventually saving or invest those payments.
If you have a mortgage, this is a great time to consider refinancing. Check current rates at Bankrate.com then find a reputable lender (or two) to determine closing costs and overall savings. Check out our mortgage refinance calculator. An extra payment each year will knock years off the length of your loan and save thousands of dollars in interest. If a lump sum payment is not doable, divide the payment over 12 months. Another option is to round your payments up to the nearest hundred dollars.
Find a mentor to hold you accountable to your goals and ask your friends to join your quest to handle money wisely.
Market Watch published an interesting article by Richard Quinn. In 10 Easy Ways to Save $870,000, he demonstrates how wise money management over a 40-year period can produce great rewards. It is clear that the power of self-control, a fruit of the Spirit, impacts one’s bank account. It is a valuable read.
Step Three: Be Patient
Learn to be faithful with a few things so you are prepared to handle much! Move forward with patience knowing that setting goals and adopting healthy habits will pay off. It’s a promise from God.
Proverbs 21:5 says, “Steady plodding brings prosperity; hasty speculation brings poverty.”
Cling to that. It will give you hope and peace so you can rest in Christ.
Crown has lots of great resources like free budgeting tools, calculators, and great programs to help you get on track and stay on track. I recommend our Money Dates program so that you and your wife can get unified when it comes to your goals.
Thanks for writing. I know you can get unstuck if you will put these steps into practice.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.