Last month, I wrote a post entitled Money Rules and one of the points I made in it was the value of saving diligently. Here’s the short statement I made about saving:
“Always, always set aside a portion of your income. The practice of saving money is the surest pillar in your financial house upon which you can rely. It is the vehicle that will offset future costs, fund big hairy audacious dreams, and allow you to approach your waning years with peace of mind.”
If you’re one of those who, due to myriad circumstances, find it near impossible to save, please read on as I tackle how you might begin saving more of the money God allows you to handle.
The first step is always the hardest one to take. Therefore, make it a small and easy one. As Proverbs 11:13 says, “ . . . whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.”
Why is it so important to start small?
Two passages that contextually have nothing to do with money come to my mind:
1) “Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.” (Exodus 23:30, NIV)
When YHWH led the Israelites to Canaan, the Promised Land, He wanted them to realize that country was already occupied. For them to take control of that land meant the previous occupants had to vacate the premises or be removed forcibly.
Takeaway: God is the One who removes obstacles/enemies one by one, little by little, until you increase/grow in power and wisdom to accomplish what He’s charged you to do.
2) “The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you.” (Deuteronomy 7:22, NIV)
Had the Israelites been able to have full access to the whole land right away, they would not have been able to fill it appropriately since they were small in number and had not yet learned all there was to know about the land. Wild animals would have then taken over and destroyed God’s people.
Takeaway: God advocates a gradual process instead of a “one fell swoop” approach because He wants to protect you against potential wild cards that could endanger/hamper your task or destroy you altogether.
By the same token, saving up enough money to fund an elaborate wedding, a luxurious car, a house, an undergraduate and/or graduate education, and retirement can be quite overwhelming. It’s silly to lose sleep over your inability to save as much money as you’d like from the start. Simply begin with an amount so minuscule that it’s barely noticeable; only then should you gradually bump up your saving contributions to a bigger portion as the Lord directs.
Draft a budget.
As starting small opens your eyes, you will learn to see you need a clear budget that will prevent wild spending spree purchases from annihilating your savings potential.
A budget is a concrete and realistic financial plan that calls on you to determine what each dollar from your income does or where each dime goes. Bearing in mind the One who owns it all has called you to manage or steward the money entrusted to you, not knowing what it’s doing or where it’s going is not a sound option. In fact, the less you know about the condition of the money entrusted to you, the more likely you are to think it’s all yours and not God’s.
On that point, Kent Hughes has helped me tremendously with these words, “God can have our money and not have our hearts, but he cannot have our hearts without having our money.” That means, as you draft a budget, be sure to account only for items deemed honoring to the Lord. Ask yourself:
- am I seeking to cover my true needs or mindlessly indulging my wants and preferences?
- am I leaving margins to help cover genuine needs of others whom God has placed on my path or am I overspending on unnecessary items to the advancement of God’s Kingdom?
Now, I wish I could just quote a verse that says something like, “Thou shalt allot 13% of your money to this item and 26% to that item . . .” according to 1 Opinions 12 verse 5. Thankfully, I cannot because it isn’t the Father’s intention to prescribe a “one-size fits all” approach to budgeting. However, I can certainly say God calls His children to have a clear understanding of how their resources are faring at any given time because Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds . . .”
I believe it was Ogden Nash who said, “O money, money, money, I’m not necessarily one who thinks thee holy, but I often stop to wonder how thou canst go out so fast when thou comest in so slowly.” Archaic English aside, that sentiment is likely echoed in your heart and to that I say a budget aptly remedies Nash’s (and your) quandary by:
- defining income versus expenses
- identifying unhealthy money habits
- scheduling the ins and outs of financial resources
- inviting communication and accountability in the home
- causing you to think carefully before you make an expenditure
- providing a written plan for wise earning, saving, and spending
With the above understanding, you can approach your budget with a heart that seeks wisdom from above. You can pray for guidance in setting goals, self-control in spending, and discipline in following the plan.
For the sake of examples, here are two ways two families of a similar income might handle their budget:
- Total Monthly Gross Income — $3500
- Giving to local church — $350
- Savings (local bank) — $150
- Income Taxes — $525
- Housing (rent + renter’s insurance) — $1300
- Food (eating out & eating in) — $420
- Auto (gas, maintenance) — $420
- Insurance — $112
- Clothing — $100
- Entertainment — $65
- Miscellaneous — $58
- Total Monthly Gross Income — $3500
- Giving (local church, missions) — $650
- Savings (local bank, retirement, investments) — $1700
- Income Taxes — $175
- Housing (mortgage) — $525
- Food (eating in) — $215
- Auto (gas, maintenance) — $108
- Insurance — $97
- Clothing — $10
- Entertainment — $20
- Miscellaneous — $0
By looking at the two above budgets, you can see how different the priorities of the two families are. Family A and Family B both spent money on similar items but their convictions led them to allocate funds in vastly different ways. One spent a lot more money on housing, food, and transportation while the other felt convicted to give and save a lot more. Because of those differences, their tax bills are different as are their levels of preparedness for the future. Your own budget will look different too depending on where your heart is and what your goals are.
Store a portion of your income every single time.
Whether money comes to you from a family member, an employer, a business venture, or another way, always set aside part of it for later use because each time you save, you essentially purchase part of your financial freedom from earthly enticements—waiting on God to show you how to employ that money for Kingdom purposes.
Saving money is stockpiling enough slices eventually leading you to have a whole pie, whether that pie be the freedom to leave American suburbia and purchase a paid-for house in the inner city to minister to people in need or building a retreat center wherein pastors and missionaries can have their strength renewed.
One way to do that is to automate your savings. If you’re a wage earner and your salary comes to you in the form of a direct deposit, also request to have a set percentage of your net income directed to a separate account designated for savings or storage. If you’re not salaried and money comes in at irregular intervals, still determine a specific percentage and get in the habit of saving that amount before impulse buys grab a hold of your heart.
Another way to do that is to determine in advance to save all raises, bonuses, overtime compensation, honoraria, and unexpected gains. The culture-trained tendency is to bump up your lifestyle to meet or surpass your rising income level; do say no to that behavior. Reduce expenses at all costs in order to save and give more.
Review your perspectives constantly.
If you’re like the average person, you may not readily see where you’ll find money to save each month. If you feel your budget is thinly stretched, do take a step back and assess your “big three”—housing, transportation, and food.
The big three tend to cover the bulk of a family’s or person’s budget each month. If you’re single, you might want to consider getting a roommate to split housing costs. If you have a family, you might consider moving to a less expensive neighborhood. If automobile expenses are sky high, you might want to ride a bicycle or take public transportation if that’s an option or even walking if you’re within a mile of your job. You might want to reduce the frequency of your grocery trips and restaurant outings.
Remember just because there’s money in the bank doesn’t mean you have to spend it on your desires as soon as a wish pops up.
Win in the margins.
Take on a side business or gig. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it’s not possible to trim your expenses any more than you’ve already done. If you find this situation to be your case, the best way to save is going to win in the margins by starting a side business.
A side business need not take all of your time but done right it can help you save more money and help meet financial goals you’ve long held. Think of your interests, the demand for your skills, and the marketing strategy required to start your side business. Pray for God’s guidance and start and see where the Lord leads.
I hope at least one of the above ideas will resonate with you and will change your approach to saving. Blessings to you on this journey!