Lottery winnings, investments, and inheritances aside, there are only two basic ways to increase your personal wealth: spend less or earn more. Ironically, spending less may be your most immediate route to having “more”–more affluence and more confidence.
Will earning more make things easier? Earning more money might alleviate your current financial pressures, but it also might bring new ones. More money gives you more psychological license to “live it up.” Instead of the reduced debt and increased savings you might logically assume would result from a jump in income, what usually happens is that you end up spending a little more on living and not so much on your goals.
In the earn-more school of thought, your career is your most important asset, more crucial than any investment. You strive for a good salary to advance economically, and your home equity and your portfolio are just “icing on the cake” compared to the “big bucks” you pull down.
The Secret Life
The day Janet came to see me she appeared to have it made: years into retirement, she had a few hundred thousand in various savings accounts, a house that was paid off, and financial freedom. However, what appeared to be built on solid ground in reality had a foundation made of sand, and possessed the ability to become quicksand if immediate financial remedies were not administered.
Janet lived a secret life as a closet shopaholic. Her late husband had kept her on a very short leash. She had no freedom to spend any money on herself, and her husband controlled her. After her husband passed away, she became addicted to spending. It started out harmless enough with a few trips to the department stores, then she upped the ante by watching a little of the home shopping networks. Before she knew it, she was hooked. She spent hours by the TV, scouring for good deals and spending thousands of dollars a day on purchases she was not even opening when the items were delivered. She often bought things she already owned from previous episodes.
She became a collector, collecting the day’s latest sales. She wanted to stop, but she couldn’t. She was like a heroin addict who kept saying, “Just one more fix, one more. This is it, I promise.” This went on for years. Her daughters were even deceived by their mom’s habits. It wasn’t until Janet and I met that we began to look at the symptoms of her problems and how close she actually was to financial disaster. After “financial” therapy, Janet is back on track. She has learned how to get her spending under control, give money to causes she cares deeply about, and still have financial freedom.
Discipline? I Don’t Need Discipline!
Put your spending under God’s control. Once you recognize that you are a manager of God’s resources, you will begin to look at spending from the vantage point of whether He will be pleased with the purchase. Also, discover the factors that drive you to spend money. This could be anything from self-esteem to feeling like you just need a pick-me-up. When you go to shop, justify the reason why you are going, set a spending limit, and have a written list of what you need. This will help you avoid the many spending pitfalls.
A great way to control spending is to find a partner to hold you accountable for everything you spend for a specified period of time. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 states, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up” (nasb). When accountability is in place, your partner is aware of your weak spot and you can both focus on ways to become more cautious with your spending habits. If looking keeps you tempted, don’t look. Window-shopping often leads to purchasing.
One great way to maintain accountability is to develop a spending record. Keep a list of spending and purchases and share these with your accountability partner. This list will include everyday items as well as monthly items. Review this at least twice a month with your partner. Pray for and encourage each other.