Financial concerns or challenges affect just about everyone at some point. While there are not always easy answers, here are some ways I have learned (or am still in the process of learning) on how to reduce financial stress and live with more financial freedom:
1. Planning. Planning includes having a written budget and financial goals. Living on a budget may seem restrictive, but it actually gives you freedom to control your money rather than your money controlling you. One key to successful budgeting is to find a budgeting system that works best for you. There are many helpful tools available today—check out https://www.mvelopes.com, https://www.daveramsey.com/everydollar, https://goodbudget.com/, and https://www.youneedabudget.com for just a few examples.
It is also important to have written longer-term goals like getting out of debt (if applicable), saving for future purchases and investing for retirement. Lastly, planning includes making sure you have your financial house in order–—things like adequate insurance coverage, an up-to-date will and instructions for your loved ones should something happen to you.
2. Contentment. The Apostle Paul wrote, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (Philippians 4:11-12).
Contentment is not exactly the American way, is it? We are trained to get what we want now! Each year, billions of dollars are spent on advertising that tries to convince us we need more stuff to make us happy. In addition, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing our lives with others’, especially in the age of social media. There will always be someone with a newer car, bigger house, better vacations, etc., so we need to just let go of that. I'm not against advertising or having nice things, but imagine how much debt (and resulting financial bondage) we could avoid by following Paul’s example of learning contentment whatever our situation.
3. Generosity. As Christ followers, we know what is ours really isn’t ours, but ultimately belongs to God on whom we completely depend. Generosity helps us put that knowledge into practice. And, while reward (financial or otherwise) shouldn't be our motivation for a generous life, it usually is a side benefit. Second Corinthians 9:6 says "... whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."
4. Balance. In managing personal finances, there often seems to be a tension between meeting short-term needs/wants, and funding longer-term goals and dreams. Ideally, there should be a balance between the two. It is not financially wise to live just for the now with no regard for the future. Likewise, it is not good to focus solely on the future, forgetting to enjoy today. Stage of life may dictate which we emphasize more, but it is important to keep these in balance.
God cares about our finances, just as He cares about all aspects of our lives. We show Him honor when we live in such a way where our finances demonstrate His love, care and preparation.
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