My wife and I first bought our car through a loan when we finally realized that we could not reach out to many places along with our three daughters in our scooter. But it was a terrible feeling of committing ourselves to a long time of debt and it’s repayment. I know of a brother, who often borrows money from people and struggle to return, take advances and loan from other agencies and try to live a life that is more than his affordability. Later I understood that he not only spends more than what he earns but also struggles to manage both ends. Growing monthly bills and loan payments not only drain our pockets but also lead us to serious financial problems. Poor management of money and binge expenditure always leads to debts. With careful planning, prudent saving and sensible spending, we can stay out of debt and be financially sound.
In 1 Tim 6:4-17 God wants us to be blessed and not cursed. We must learn the dangers of wealth and we must master the money that we have. God doesn’t mind us having money, but be quick to give and help people with that money. When God gives us wealth, don’t begin to trust in it. Trust in the living God who gives. Having a proper understanding of money and its use are serious challenges that face all Christians. Money is not the problem. The way we use the money is the essential problem. God wants us to understand that money by itself is morally neutral and the way we use it become test of our morality.
“Money is an excellent slave but a terrible master”. I don’t know who said this but it sure wasn’t someone from a financing company! When you have dug yourself out of debt once in your life, you will know how much you want to avoid going down the same road again. We all incur some debt at one time or another in our lives so if we can’t get rid of debt altogether, we can at least keep it down to a level where it does not affect the way we live our life. It is very easy to dip back in to the red. It has happened to a lot of Christians. Credits are all too easily available and it is often not the size of the debt that matters, merely the fact that mounting unpaid bills can result in feelings of helplessness.
Many of us have debt- perhaps the installments on a home loan, car loan, the balance on a credit card, education loan, and many other kinds of personal debt. Debt can make a lot of sense, as one part of overall financial situation of a person or family. It allows us to enjoy things now that we could not have if we had to pay for them all now. It enhances your purchasing power today and lets you postpone repayments till tomorrow. But each time you take credit for something your current income cannot afford, remember that you will end up paying much more tomorrow. If you can’t afford it today, does it make sense for you to pay even more for it tomorrow? unless you have a clear idea about how much more you can earn tomorrow. If you are an impulsive buyer thinking that somehow somewhere something will enable you to sometime pay out the debt. Be careful! Debt should not master you; you master your money. Spend only what you can afford. How do you know what you can afford? One way people get in to debt by giving in to the impulse to buy, rather than making a good decision to buy. There is no one to stop you; you need to do it for yourself. You can do it, if you will be honest about your financial condition. A good decision requires some thought, understanding the pros and cons, and exercising good judgment. Wait for some time and see how does the item you wanted to buy fit in to your budget. If you buy it, will you still be able to keep your budget on track, and then decide accordingly. If you can master your money, you can be free from the burden of debt. Don’t buy stuff unless it is a real necessity. Many times what happens is that there could be a sale at your favorite store or a special Trade fare in your city or the online great Indian Sale, weekend sale or Festival sale; you don’t need anything really, but you decide to go and look. Finally you/your spouse found that the pink sari was so reasonable that you bought it even though you already have many good saris including the pink color. You also bought 2 ties or 2 socks because you got a third one free and the list goes on and on.
Do not spend all what you earn; you need to save for tomorrow. You might need the money during unforeseen rainy days ahead. Save today and the magic of compounding would ensure that you would be able to afford much more tomorrow. Imagine situations where you would desperately need money such as your children’s education, their marriage, and medical emergencies or on a vacation. In this age where finance companies and banks are competing to give credit and credit card usage is increasing, try and avoid the use of credit cards and keep you away from debt trap. To stop impulsive buying- don’t carry your credit cards with you all the time. If you have to use hard cash to buy something, it feels more like real spending. Having a budget for yourself will help you stop impulse buying. Estimate what you think it costs you to pay your bills of groceries, gas, milkman, school fees for the children, sundries and so forth. Then write down everything you actually spend each day. Everything! Then you compare the actual expenses with your estimate and you must have probably spent much more than you think you do. Then on the basis of this, come up with a real budget with in the limits of your earning. Keep a record of all your earning and spending, this would help you a lot in mastering your money. I have this practice of keeping record all my earnings and spending and it has helped us as a family to master our money. Check your spending habits, cut out all the fat and discipline yourself in your spending habits. For instance, it takes more work to prepare a meal than go to a restaurant, but see whether you can afford to eat out all the time or not. Don’t buy those ready made masala packs or packed food if you can anyways make more of it at a much lesser cost. Check yourself at the end of each month to be sure you are staying with in the budget.
Incase if you have a debt, try and pay off with in the period of credit you have planned to avoid unnecessary payments of interest. Regular repayments will help you to manage with in the period of credit you have taken. If you have ability to pay more than the minimum amount of EMI fixed, pay off your debt early. Your savings will work for you but if you are in debt, your debt works many times harder against you. So stay out of debt. Loans are often a sign of financial distress waiting to happen. Check your monthly accounts and check where you are going wrong before some one snatch your happiness away and also ensure that you are saving enough for those rainy days.
We all are required to differentiate between our NEEDS and WANTS. We all want more than what we have or could afford. This is not what we need. We might need a car but our want tells us to go for a Honda City or XUV 500 instead of a Maruti Alto. It is essential to understand once we have bought the bigger and more expensive car; it is not just the monthly installment that will go up but the running and maintenance as well as upkeep and insurance costs. If we earn ten thousand rupees a month and spend only nine thousand five hundred rupees, we are trouble free men financially. But if we spend even a hundred rupees more than what we earn, we are heading for trouble. A determination ‘not to borrow’ is essential for financial security though on rare occasions we may borrow, but the habit of borrowing is best to be avoided. Another important guideline for managing finances is that offering one tenth of one’s income to God though it is a controversial and unpopular topic for Christians. At the beginning of every month, we must cheerfully set apart our tithes and offerings for God, and not give him a part of the ‘leftovers’ at the end of the month. I believe that if we set apart one hundred rupee in every thousand rupees we earn, the nine hundred rupees will carry us much farther than the thousand rupees. Finally Christian families should aim at maintaining a simple life style. Many families get in to financial difficulties because they try to maintain too high standard of living, though they cannot afford to, simply because their neighbors do.
Psalms 62.10 says that “though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them”. Although it is legitimate for us to earn as much as we can, we need to avoid the longing to go on gathering wealth. Riches become a fascination and a hindrance to our Christian life. A Christian family should learn to be content with what God has given them and also must keep in mind the need of other families poorer than themselves.