The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21: 5

To “profit” simply means you still have money left after all your expenses are paid. We’d all like to be profitable, but why is it so hard to get there sometimes? Many of us seem to be perpetually behind financially.  And when our troubles result from poor choices we’ve made, we may not know how to fix our situation or prevent it from happening again.

A case in point: An episode of a recent talk show featured a family that was about $80,000 in debt. They met with a financial counselor, refinanced their house and were able to take $50,000 from their house and pay off quite a bit of debt. Unfortunately, when they came back on the show a year later, they returned with an additional $37,000 on top of their original debt. The financial counselor said that based on these results, this family didn’t really want to be debt free - they just wanted to relieve a little pressure. Once some of the pressure was relieved, they were “done” in their minds and went back to spending money.

This scenario plays out in so many people’s lives. Yet, I’ve never heard anyone actually say, “I want to get out of debt - and after that I want to rack up more debt!” Sounds crazy, right?  

I believe one of the best remedies for financial stress and yo-yo budgeting (getting in debt, getting out of debt, getting back in debt, getting back out of debt, etc.) is rooted in Proverbs 21: setting financial goals. With goals you are no longer wandering aimlessly but know where you are going and know exactly how far you have to go before arriving.

Before my husband and I paid off our credit cards, we had goals for what we wanted to do with the extra credit card payment money when we no longer had to make those payments. And before that goal was reached, we planned for another goal to shoot for after that one. I believe this practice is what’s kept us from going back into debt. We have clear plans for what we want to do with our money and while we may get sidetracked from time to time, we still have our goals to guide us.

If you don’t have any financial goals yet, I encourage you set aside some time to pray about what goals you want to set and then sit down and write them out. You’ll want to evaluate your current financial situation as well as what you want your financial future to look like and figure out what steps will get you there. When writing down your financial goals it’s a good idea to include specific time frames for reaching your goals. You may or may not meet those time frames, but at least you’ll be able to see how you are doing along the way and adjust as necessary.

If you are married, goal-setting is a great opportunity to sit down with your spouse and communicate about your money and your future dreams and plans. You’ll want to make sure you are on the same page or can at least arrive on the same page because if you and your spouse have different goals for the money you share, I promise you there will be trouble ahead.

Since everyone’s financial situation is different, everyone’s goals will be different too. As you pray about this, God will direct you to what areas of your finances need improvement, but to help you get started, let me offer a few ideas: 

Create an Emergency Fund: The first thing my husband and I started saving for was our emergency savings fund. This is important because it can help save you from going into debt when the unexpected occurs.  Many Christians sadly assume that God will prevent any catastrophes from occurring in their finances and are very surprised when they do occur.  God often gives us the means to set aside money now to take care of future needs.  Proverbs 6:6-8 talks about how an ant stores up food in the summer so he will have enough food in the winter when the supply is non-existent.