Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thou Shalt Avoid the Quicksand of Debt

Well, we're already to chapter 5!  That means we're halfway finished with this series!  This week's commandment was:
Thou Shalt Avoid the Quicksand of Debt

I am very passionate about this topic, not only because I have an accounting degree, but because I've learned a lot about money in the past couple of years, and because I saw a close friend in college drowning in debt.

Let me preface this post with my story and by saying that I am incredibly blessed.  I don't say that to rub it in people's faces, but by acknowledging how much God has given to me.  God blessed my family by giving me an {almost} full ride scholarship to the only University that I wanted to attend...and the only University that I applied to, might I add.  (A few years later, he blessed both of my brothers with the same...to that same University.)

Before marriage, I had never been in debt.  I didn't know what it was like.  I only knew that I never wanted to be in debt.  My parents had taught me how to save, and I became frugal.  When I got married, well, you know what happened. "What's yours is mine and what's mine is yours."  So I became part owner of college debt.  College is expensive and student loans are very common [which I didn't realize until after working 4 years of freshman orientation].  So I got my first taste of what debt feels like.  Can I tell you something?

I hate it.

I do not like knowing that I owe someone money.  I'm not sure why most of Americans do...  However, it's almost paid off. And we will celebrate. :) 

Another thing...my parents never had credit cards while I was growing up, and to this day they still don't have one.  Having parents model what it meant to be a good steward of their money has been a blessing.  They taught me the 10-30-60 method of money.  I can remember when I was probably 6 or 7, we sat down to talk about getting a paycheck.  {Yes, I was slave labor to my father's farm. :)}  But they had talked to me about giving back to God before then...

When we took my paycheck to the bank, I always asked for 10% of it to go into an envelope.  Then, I asked for 30% of that paycheck to go into my savings account.  The rest I got to put into another envelope.  That 10% went to God, which meant that I would take it to church and put it into the offering plate or I would put it in the envelope in my Sunday School class.  My parents always told me, "No matter what, always give back to God."

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A lot of what my parents taught me was in this chapter.  A few things have changed since I'm now "on my own," but the teaching was the same.

We don't own anything.  Ultimately everything is God's.  The paycheck we get on a bi-monthly basis?  Not ours.  The extra income that randomly comes in the mail?  Not ours.  But these days, people, especially Americans, don't have that mentality.  The American Dream is what people seem to want:  big houses, nice cars, the nicest electronics, etc, etc, etc.  But all of that takes money...and when people don't have money, they put it on a credit card to pay later.  Except that "later" gets to be waaaaaay later.  Then they find themselves in debt a mile high.  This is a common cause of divorce.

Ed says, "When we give first place to the Father's agenda, the Son's priorities, and the causes of God's church, we invest in things that last forever"..."If husbands and wives vow that 'Today we are going to readjust, reschedule, replan, reprogram so that we put God's things first,' they would build a mighty wall against the temptation of material possessions that can destroy a marriage and family."

So I mentioned that when I was 7 I had a 10-30-60 plan.  Well, now growing up I have to change that plan...a little bit.  Ed gives the example of a 10-70-20 budget.  He says take 10% of what is left after your tithe and save or invest that amount.  Use 70% for operating expenses {what you live on}, and use the last 20% for debt reduction (if you have debt).  With any financial plan, you must have a budget and stick to it.  This is a smart example of being proactive about paying off any debt you have, and it will also help you get out of debt quicker.

Here are some tips that he gives about overcoming greed, which is a big reason so many people are in debt.  They *think* they need that certain item, so they put it on their plastic square.

1.  Learn the secret of admiring without desiring.  Can you go shopping without seeing something that you've absolutely got to have?  You can still admire and not have a want for it.
2.  Learn the secret of giving away stuff.  Go through your closets and home at the change of every season and give away what you don't wear or use anymore.  Not only is "stuff" included, but money too!
3.  Learn the secret of being generous toward God.  Learning to be generous towards God helps keep greed from your life.
4.  Learn the reality of death in relationship to things.  When you learn to focus on eternity, things aren't as important.  You can't take anything with you to heaven.

It's important to understand that, "When your money leaves your hand and gets into your heart, that's when you're in the greatest danger of sinking into the quicksand of debt."  Don't let it get that far.  Using the tips above, you can overcome greed which will help keep you from debt.

"Jesus said we are to seek first God's kingdom, and the things we need will come as a result of such prioritizing."  God will always take care of your needs when you trust Him.  When you give back to Him more than you have to give, He will be there to give you your needs.


Hebrews 13:5 says,

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, 
'Never will I leave you;never will I forsake you.'"


Don't let the thought of becoming rich overtake the importance of giving back to God.  "When our spiritual wealth lags behind our physical wealth, we have too much money.  When our commitment to God, His Word, and the church comes in second place behind our commitment to material things, we've gone too far and outdistanced the amount of money we should hang on to."

Sometimes we wonder why we don't even have enough money to make ends meet.  


Matthew 25:21 says,
"...You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things."

If you're struggling, give the situation to God.  Many people don't give the tithe when they are struggling because they need that extra money to take care of their bills.  I would challenge you.  Give your tithe first, and then you will find that God will take care of the rest.    Maybe you're not struggling at all.  "When God gives us more than the basics, He wants to use our abundance as a blessing to others, for His Kingdom--for things that will last forever.  And the man or woman who does not realize this is a fool, by God's own definition."

One last thing...people are more important than money.  This is the one thing that I've been learning for the last couple of years.  Money is just something to help make life a little easier. But to hoard it all for yourself is selfish.  Does it matter in the grand scheme of things if I was a millionaire?  Does it matter if I had enough money to get by and then some?  Does it matter if I helped the homeless person on the side of the road by giving him a Blessing Bag?  Does it matter if I bought a friend lunch that really needed some encouragement?  In the big picture, you can't take money or things with you to heaven, but you can take people.

Being in debt can really hinder a marriage.  Finances are one of the biggest reasons for conflict and divorce.  But you don't have to wait until you are drowning in debt to do something about it.  Be proactive.  Communicate.  Make a plan.

1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV84) says,
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."

Questions from this week's chapter:
  1. What is the driving force of debt in your family?
  2. What purchase are you currently considering that would increase your debt?  Why do you need it?
  3. What percentage of your income are you giving to the church?
  4. How much is your current credit card debt?  Noncredit card debt?  What steps are you taking to get out of debt?

3 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, Beth! This post was FOR ME!!! Jake and I have really been discussing our current bills, trying to pay off the debt (get rid of all the credit cards, student loans, car payments)so we can start using our excess for missions and local help!I have been really struggling with the I need v. want, is my money paying off 1 debt to inquire a new one?, etc..ect..

    Oh, and I actually run a small group of women (and a man) that do blessing bags! I have a few hundred (ok, 500+) of them in my garage!!! I love seeing the faces and knowing they are getting a warm meal, clean socks, and some personal care item! That is so much more of a blessing then having all the monetary riches in the world!

    I seriously need to read this book! Thank you for being such a strong example for young women!!!

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    1. sorry for the super lllllloooooonnnnngggg comment!! I've always been wordy:)

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  2. I LOVE THIS POST! We have taken the Dave Ramsey class and are trying really hard not to have any debt outside of our mortgage. Unfortunately I am one of those people that brought student loan debt into our marriage and they came from a pricey private christian school. Ouch! But we have paid off our credit cards and car loans, so it feels good to be driving around in cars we actually OWN. We try and watch our pennies and not go crazy. We choose not to have cable tv and only do instant Netflix too. We find it better anyways because it's mostly trash on tv and we can be super selective what we watch.
    I wish we lived closer Beth! You are such a sweet blessing!

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