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Published on February 16th, 2014 | by Nathaniel

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Pinching Pennies? 5 Things You Should be Doing to Master Your Finances

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If you’re like me, in 2013, you questioned if your already hollowed piggy-bank had come down with a serious eating disorder. You looked back on the year eager to forget yesterday’s debts and walk boldly in 2014 with a clean slate… Only problem is those not so thrift habits decided to sprint into 2014 before you could even start the race (they’re currently on lap 4 if you’re wondering).

For some reason, there’s this disgusting (perfect word choice) misconception that “wealth” is the antithesis of “Christianity”- that to have money is somehow evil. If that were the case why did Jesus explain in “The Parable of the Bags of Gold” (Matthew 25:14-30) that a master rewarded the two servants who invested the money entrusted to them, but reprimanded the one servant who hid his money? The truth? Money is arbitrary; it has no value other than what we give it. So if money is neutral, then it’s what we choose to do with it that manifests good or evil. And to maximize the good, we have to be cognizant of where our money is going.

Already a Type-A, I knew how to budget, but when it came to finances, I felt like I was constantly chasing my golden retriever, Pesto (a fictitious dog demands a fictitious name) who had cleverly unchained himself from his leash. My brother recommended, I start listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast and enroll in Financial Peace University (a 10-week class on how to gain control over finances); it’s changed my life. And I’m going to share a little bit of what I’ve been learning with you. If you’re serious about no longer pinching pennies, you should be doing these five things to take charge of your finances:

 pinching pennies

       1.       Make and Live on a Monthly Budget

It’s not just about making a budget but actually living on it that makes the difference. We hear the word budget and we think “rigid,” “tight”- maybe even “poor.” But put simply, a budget is a financial plan. The number one reason people are unsuccessful with money isn’t because they don’t make enough, it’s  because they don’t have a plan for how they spend it- there’s nothing and no one holding them accountable. Yet, they question how they could be $60,000 debt despite a $200,000 income. If you intend to master your finances, you have to have a plan for every dollar.

       2.       Plan to Give

It’s too easy to get in the habit of the “me” philosophy. My needs. My expenses. My problems. We’ve all been there before, right? When we make our monthly budget, we need to include tithes and monthly giving- money allotted to donating to charities, taking others out for coffee, or lunch, etc. Tithing 10% allows us to not become attached to our money. Giving the first portion of our income isn’t primarily for God’s benefit- it’s for ours.  It allows us to understand the importance of sacrifice and forces us to plan how we use the rest of the 90%.

      3.       Have an Emergency Fund

We’re human. It’s naïve to think we’re going to coast through life without experiencing the loss of a job, a loved one, a career hurdle, or a car problem. Saying something challenging will occur isn’t being negative, it’s being real. So if we know we’re going to experience tough times, why do we refuse to keep a liquid flow of cash readily available? Dave recommends that your first emergency fund should be $1000.00 and the next step after that is to put at least 3-6 months of living expenses into a money market.

      4.       Cut Your Credit Cards

Any interest rate where you have to pay more than you initially spent is a horribibbbble one. Think about it logically, does it make sense to borrow what you don’t have if you don’t need to (loans for school/ mortgage are understandable… a loan for that $2000.00 extra plush leather-recliner is not). It’s too easy to fall into the snare of a $40,000 debt because of that 18% interest rate.

      5.       Feel Your Cash

Money is just a theory in the 21st century, right? From direct deposit to mobile banking to debit cards, we can go months without even seeing cash. And that’s how the banks want it! But we know better, right? After making a budget, find the most important categories to only use cash (Food, Entertainment, Gas, etc). If I budget $75/ week for food and stick it in an envelope, after it’s gone, it’s gone.

Other Big Take-Aways:

*Nobody owes you anything

*It’s a work in progress

*Your Financial State is Your Responsibility

*Find Someone to Hold You Accountable

What would you like to learn about finances? Have any tips to share? Comment below!

Questions about finances? How to make a budget? Email me: nathaniel@beingencouraged.com

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