Over my nine years of being the “GFC FPU guy” (Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University), many people have stopped me in the lobby or at an event to ask for help with their finances. Always, and I do mean always, it boils down to a few questions we should ask ourselves. The purpose of this blog is to help you keep it simple with your personal finances. If you need to stop me at one of our campuses, we can drill down much more quickly because you will have these questions answered.
1. Whose Money Is It?
This question points right to our attitude about whose money it actually is. Depending on the answer, and it is not always the same, our attitude about money becomes evident. With common sense, I may tend to say it is mine—either I earned it at a job, it was given to me for my birthday (or something like that), or provided for me in some other way. If it is in my pocket, in my bank account, or under my bed, it’s mine.
Yet when we shine the light of God’s Word upon this question, we see that money is not ours, but the Lord’s.
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Everything is God’s. Everything. Our Father in heaven gives it to us to manage for Him. As managers, or stewards, we play a big part. Along with time and talent, He provides for us treasure, like money, as a tool to achieve His work on Earth. Psalm 24:1 is a foundational scripture I refer to people to back up this point. Post it somewhere you can see and remember it.
This is good news because it means the pressure is off of us. God provides the finances and the direction, through the Bible, on how to manage it for Him. When we follow His guidance, He receives glory and we receive joy, plus we are given more to manage.
2. How Do I Honor God with the Money He Gives Me?
While I may not hear this question posed to me exactly this way, it is a great reflection of a changing attitude that aligns with what we learned from the first question. In my life, I often found myself interested in pleasing people. Only after I met Jesus Christ years ago and studied His Word did I even care if I pleased Him. I learned there are specific ways to please God, to follow His lead, and to benefit greatly as a result. The bottom line: He cares about how we use the money He provides us and desires for us to honor Him with it. Here’s how to honor Him,
See 1 Chronicles 29:12 NIV, where David recognizes publicly that God owns it all. He says, “Wealth and honor come from you [God]; you are the ruler of all things.” Acknowledging God brings Him glory and honor and pleasure. Take time to pray with your spouse, a friend, or even alone and give your finances to God right now. Trust me, He wants to bless us, but He wants us to know and understand the source.
The late, great motivator Zig Ziglar used to say, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” This is a recipe for disaster when applied to money management. We should be intentional, on purpose, and careful about how we manage God’s resources for Him. Consider praying, journaling, and even fasting to discern how to prioritize and organize the money God provides you.
In order to make the plan a reality, you must execute with focus. You’ve dedicated and planned, and now the fun part: execution!
3. How Do I Plan and Execute?
The answer is simple, yet avoided by many because of its negative connotations. Yep, you guessed it. The best way to plan and execute your finances is through the creation and use of a written monthly budget. Fear not, the budget comes to rescue, not pillage.
When I meet with folks who come for advice, 90%of them do not have a written monthly budget. So I suggest we craft a budget that features three vital elements—income, outgo, zero. This is a lesson I learned from Dave Ramsey about ten years ago, and my life has never been the same. It is what he calls Cash Flow Planning (FPU Lesson 3), using a Zero-Based Budget. Grab a pad of paper and pencil and begin to outline the following three things. Do it now. It will change your life!
This is any dollar that comes into your household on a given day, week, month, year, etc. For example, a job you have, side work, babysitting, selling a personal item, child support, etc. Anything. Write this down on one page of your pad.
Turn to the next page of your pad and write down any expense you have. Items like giving, mortgage, clothing, gas for your car, and food. Also include things like debts, utilities, childcare, medical needs, insurance premiums, etc. Keep going, there is probably more. Don’t leave anything out.
The goal of the zero-based budget is to take your income and subtract your outgo to equal zero. Meaning once you have written down all of your total income (i.e.: $4,000), then your expenses should be no greater than that. If they are, find a way to narrow the gap. We will talk about that in another post.
Create a written budget each month. It may be scary, tedious, and annoying at first; however, it will create much joy and balance in your life in the long run.
Remember the 90 percent? Let that not be you!