Tame Your Finances in 30 Days
- Friday, September 15, 2006
Does your money seem to run out as fast as it comes in? Are your financial records out of control, and your discussions about money filled with stress? If your finances are running wild, you can tame them in just 30 days – and be well on your way toward a healthier financial future.
Here’s how you can tame your finances in 30 days:
Day 1 – Write the vision: Think and pray about a financial vision for your life. Ask God to help you come up with short- and long-term goals. For example, in the short term, you might want to save a certain amount of money to take a vacation, and in the long term, you might work to save a set amount to fund your kids’ college education. Prioritize each goal and choose a specific date by which you hope to accomplish each goal. Share your goals with someone you trust to help you stay accountable to them and support you along the way.
Day 2 – See where you stand: Make a list of your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe). Then write down your income from all sources, and all your expenses – both fixed and variable (to get a good idea of variable expenses such as food and entertainment, keep track of every expense you incur for seven days at a time for four weeks, and study the record).
Day 3 – Prepare your plan: Develop a budget through these steps: determining where you’re currently spending money, evaluating your spending in light of your financial goals, identifying and eliminating behaviors or circumstances that lead to unnecessary spending, and monitoring your ongoing expenditures to make sure they’re consistent with your financial goals.
Day 4 – Fund firstfruits first: Make it a high priority to pay your tithe, offerings, and alms (money to help people in need) before you use your income for anything else. Trust God to provide all you need when you’re faithful to obey His command to give.
Day 5 – Save strategically: Establish a small emergency cash reserve. Then prepare for the future more by contributing the maximum amount you can to your company’s matching retirement plan, paying down your consumer credit, accumulating a living expense reserve for two to six months, and putting money toward long-term investments such as a home or rental property.
Day 6 – Diminish your debt: Pay off your debts one at a time, starting with the one that has the lowest balance, and using the money you free up to pay down other debts until you’ve cleared them all. Ask God to help you resist the temptation to incur additional debt. Cancel all unnecessary credit cards and make every effort to stay out of debt.
Day 7 – Ask for what you want: Don’t hesitate to ask for a favor, such as a loan for a new business you’d like to start, a discount for car repairs, or for delivery charges to be waived on an appliance. Know that if you ask for a financial favor that’s reasonable, you might just get the help you’d like.
Day 8 – Investigate your insurance: Understand that it’s good stewardship to review your needs for health, life, auto, home and other types of insurance to protect yourself and your loved ones. Buy appropriate policies to meet your needs.
Day 9 – Let go of a luxury: Limit some of your indulgences for a season. Stop spending money – for now – on extras such as eating out, getting manicures, or buying CDs.
Day 10 – Cease comparing: Don’t buy anything out of pressure to keep up with what other people have or maintain a certain image. Decide that you’ll only buy what you can afford – and no more.
Day 11 – Clear the clutter: Eliminate clutter from your home so you’ll know where your financial records are, can locate your bills to pay them on time, and won’t waste any money on duplicate purchases of items you’ve lost in the mess.
Day 12 – Maximize your minutes: Make the most of your time, because – like money – once you spend time, it’s gone. Keep track of how you spend your time for a few days, then think and pray about how you can use your time better. Every day, write a prioritized to-do list.
Day 13 – Spend smart: Don’t fall for the myth that you have to buy everything new. Consider used cars and previously worn clothes. Stick to the basics when you shop. Be creative about saving money on entertainment, such as by volunteering to serve as an usher to get into events for free.
Day 14 – Do-it-yourself: Rather than paying for other people’s services, decide to do what you need yourself. Learn how to do your own domestic chores and repairs, and groom yourself rather than visiting a stylist.
Day 15 – Eat economically: Avoid unnecessary trips to the grocery store by making a list when you do visit. Buy and cook in bulk when it makes sense to do so. Clip and use grocery coupons, and don’t go to the store hungry. In restaurants, split a meal with your spouse or child whenever possible; and skip drinks, appetizers, and desserts; and take home uneaten food to eat later.
Day 16 – Restructure your recreation: Think of low-cost alternatives to expensive pastimes. For example, instead of playing pricey sports such as golf or skiing, go on a hike, swim, or ride a bike. And rather than going to a movie theater, rent a DVD (or check one out of the library for free) and make your own popcorn in your microwave to enjoy while watching the film.
Day 17 – Spend in sync with your spouse: Make sure you’re in agreement with your spouse before your make any major purchases. Decide together on a maximum dollar amount that you each may spend without consulting each other. Then refuse to spend more than that amount unless your spouse agrees.
Day 18 – Pare your presents: Know that you can express your love fully to others without having to use expensive gifts to do so. Be creative about choosing thoughtful – yet inexpensive – presents for others.
Day 19 – Further your financial intelligence: Decide to improve your financial knowledge, such as by finding out your FICO score on your credit report, researching business deals (such as car leases) thoroughly before committing to them, getting legal and accounting expertise, learning about tax laws, and more.
Day 20 – Eliminate your emotional spending: Stop to check your motives before spending money on any item and service. If you’re motivated by anger, boredom, depression, insecurity, frustration, or some other strong emotion rather than a rational need, don’t spend your money at that time.
Day 21 – Ponder your purchases: Understand that impulsiveness makes you bait for dishonest or pushy salespeople and scams. Beware of hot deals and high-pressure deadlines. Take at least 24 hours to think about major purchases before deciding whether or not to make them. Before you buy, ask yourself: "Is this a need or a desire?", "Can I afford it?", "Will I use it immediately?", "Do I already have something similar?" and "How can I glorify God with this purchase?".
Day 22 – End your enabling: Don’t enable a family member or friend to remain irresponsible by bailing them out of poor decisions or not requiring them to carry their fair load. For example, refuse to cosign a loan for someone else. And if your able-bodied, adult child moves back home, require him or her to pay for rent, part of the utility costs, and his or her own food.
Day 23 – Ditch dishonesty: Ask God to help you live with integrity. Reject all forms of dishonesty, such as lying about your child’s age in order to get a discount, making personal long-distance calls from work, stealing office supplies, or cheating on your tax return.
Day 24: Watch wastefulness: Cut out waste from all areas of your life, such as by finishing all the food in your refrigerator before it goes bad and using both sides of paper before discarding it. Be as frugal as you can so you’ll have more money to share with others.
Day 25: Improve your image: Recognize that the image you present of yourself to the world really does matter. Do your best to look and act professionally.
Day 26: Put off procrastination: Decide to act on your ideas now rather than waiting any longer. Reject fear, make some progress right away, and trust God to help you reach your goals.
Day 27: Profit from your passion: Stop wasting time working in a field that doesn’t ignite your passion. Don’t be afraid to make job changes so you can work at something you’re truly passionate about. Realize that what’s most important is to do the work God calls you to do – and that when you do so, He will make sure you’re earning an adequate income from your efforts.
Day 28: Face the facts with faith: Never allow the facts of your current circumstances to overshadow your faith that God can help you overcome your circumstances. Despite the harsh realities of your financial situation right now, believe that God can and will help you achieve a better financial future. Don’t be afraid to pray for divine intervention whenever and however you need it.
Day 29: Seek support: Find at least one family member or friend who can give you guidance, encouragement, and accountability as you continue to improve your money management. Consider help from a credit counseling agency, too, if necessary. Always be alert to the Holy Spirit speaking to you, and listen well to discern God’s ongoing guidance.
Day 30: Cultivate contentment: Ask God to help you be content with what you have, no matter what your current circumstances. Develop gratefulness that leads to contentment by making time regularly to thank God for your blessings. Focus more on relationships and less on stuff.
Adapted from 30 Days to Taming Your Finances: What to Do (and Not Do) to Better Manage Your Money, copyright 2006 by Deborah Smith Pegues. Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Or., www.harvesthousepublishers.com.
Deborah Smith Pegues is an experienced certified public accountant, a Bible teacher, a speaker, a certified behavioral consultant specializing in understanding personality temperaments, and the author of 30 Days to Taming Your Tongue. She and her husband, Darnell, have been married more than 27 years and make their home in California.
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