This month we celebrate Columbus Day in honor of Christopher Columbus and his journey to the new world. I want to encourage many of you to discover a new financial world. You may have heard the rhyme: "In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue." I’ve created a new rhyme for you to remember: "In 2006, my finances I did fix."

Spend less than you make

The foundation of financial planning is "spend less than you make." If you think about it, there are only three things you can do with money. You can share it, save it, or spend it. If you spend it wisely, it frees you up to give and save more. Spending less than you make doesn’t require a Master’s degree in finance. Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend less than we make and most of us are struggling with money.

I love to spend money. In fact, I can spend it with the best of them. However, I also understand that I have limited resources and can’t simply spend what I want. I have to live below my means. Often, you hear someone say "you have to live within your means." But, we actually have to learn to live "below" our means. Too few of us have this understanding. We buy because we can. Easy credit permits us to buy things we can’t afford. In my experience, only about one in ten families actually need more income; they simply can’t cut their expenses any further. The other nine merely need to learn to live below their means.

People often erroneously believe that if they can earn more money, their financial problems will be solved. But, this is usually not the case. Blaine Harris, in his book The Four Laws of Debt Free Prosperity says "our level of expenses will always rise to our level of income unless we protest to the contrary." This is a fancy way of saying "we spend what we make." No matter the amount of your income, you have to learn to live on less than you earn. If you learn to be faithful with little, it will be easier to be faithful with much. Luke recorded Jesus’ words in his Gospel:

"Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people's money, why should you be trusted with money of your own?" Luke 16:10-12

Share the wealth

I believe that God has made us to share our lives with others. Paul told the Thessalonians this:

"Your lives are echoing the Master's Word ... The news of your faith in God is out. We don't even have to say anything anymore - you're the message!" 1 Thessalonians. 1:8 (The Message)

Sharing our lives includes sharing our finances. We can share the wealth in many ways. We can give money to our church, missionaries, neighbors, etc… One mistake many of us make is in the belief that all our giving must be done only to organizations. Sometimes, the giving that has the most impact is the giving that is done between people. Maybe you know your neighbor needs their car repaired but can’t afford it. You may be able to help them. Remember that God allows us to give so that we can experience the blessing that comes from giving. Luke records Paul’s meeting with the elders of the church of Ephesus in Acts 20:33-35:

"I have never coveted anyone's money or fine clothing. You know that these hands of mine have worked to pay my own way, and I have even supplied the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help the poor by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: `It is more blessed to give than to receive.' "