Coming out of college in 2000, my wife and I had a student loan and a car payment. Not too bad. Two years later we had built a home that came nicely equipped with a mortgage, bought a bigger car with a bigger payment, had our first child, bought another car with another payment, and still had that pesky student loan.
My youth pastor salary was completely eaten up. We were stressed, frustrated, a little confused and angry. What had we done?
Well, as it turns out we had done what every normal 20 something was doing. We had behaved ourselves into a bad financial spot. We did what was ‘normal’.
But God was gracious to us. About the third year into our marriage we had gotten some timely advice (unsolicited, I might add). But nevertheless, extraordinarily helpful.
We were introduced to a man named Dave Ramsey, who taught some ‘weird’ ideas about money. Jackie and I were slow to follow, but follow we did. We started to incorporate the ‘weird’ ideas (all biblical) and soon we began to see changes. Good changes.
We noticed less stress in our lives when it came to money. We noticed less fighting and arguing about money. We both actually noticed we got excited to talk about the topic. Talk about weird!
What were some of those weird behaviors we learned? Here are five of them:
1. Create a spending plan.
A spending plan is a budget. A budget is simply telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went. If you want to have some financial peace in your life you are going to have to become a planner. Each month, you must sit down and plan how you will spend the cash that will come in. If you are haphazard with your spending, in the long run you will be broke, frustrated, angry and confused. 90% of divorced couples cite money issues as the root cause of the divorce. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.”
2. Spend less than you make. Or as Dave Ramsey says, “Act your wage”.
This one principle will change your life because it will create something called margin. Margin is the extra money you will have by spending less that you make. Your margin will allow you to change your financial situation very quickly if you use it properly. All you need is about $200-$300 a month to really make a difference. If you spend everything you make, and then some, you will be in for a lot of trouble.
The quickest way to find margin is through contentment. When you are content with less, you will not spend everything that comes in.
3. Save money.
The only way you can save money is by creating margin. Every month take a little of your margin and save it. Dave Ramsey directs us to save for three things: (1) Emergencies… because they will happen (2) Purchases… because you can get deals (3) The Future… because the government will not be taking care of you in the future. The government overspends $3.89 billion a day. Lets get real.
4. Get out of debt.
When we are in debt we are in bondage. We are not free to bless people, help people or go places… at least not in the way we would like to. Instead, we are strapped. The Bible says that the borrower is the slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). But this is not what you were created for. You were created to be free!
The best tool out there today to help you become debt free is called the Debt Snowball. Look it up! It works.
5. Give like crazy!
When you have no payments you become a blessing machine! This will take some time and we shouldn’t wait to be completely debt free to give, but can you imagine how much you could do for others if you had no mortgage! No payments!
My wife and I have followed these ‘weird’ money behaviors for 8 or 9 years now… not perfectly, but consistently. They work!
My advice on money… be a Weirdo! Because normal isn’t working.