I’m a SINK in the eyes of the IRS – Single Income, No Kids. Translation: I’m responsible for every penny that comes in or goes out of my household of one. I also live in a spend-happy, debt-laden society that practically assaults me with pressure to buy, throw away, and buy again. So what’s a single gal to do with her paycheck? Here are a few tips I’m learning along the way (and these go for single guys and married folks, too):
- Understand that my money is not mine – it is God’s. John Piper states that your “money… is wasted when it doesn’t achieve the purposes of its owner, which is God…. His purpose is that you use money in such a way that it will be plain that his Son is more valuable than money.” I manage it rather than own it. Thinking of my money as belonging to someone else gives more weight to what I do with it (James 1.17).
- Give generously and cheerfully. I love that the pastors at my church often refer to 2 Corinthians 9 just before we collect the offering. That passage is laced with references to the blessing and pleasure of giving. I can give generously and joyfully because I have received grace and know that my stewardship has eternal value. I’m trying to adopt this mindset: I have in order to give (Ephesians 4.28).
- Save strategically. Planning for the future is not incompatible with generous giving (Proverbs 6.6-11). I have adopted the out-of-sight-out-of-mind method of saving. I have set up monthly automatic withdrawals from my checking account into various savings, certificates of deposit (CDs), and other interest-earning accounts for financial goals and for emergencies. Just make sure that your saving plan meets your needs for availability of funds. For instance, if you need to make a tuition or car payment once a month, don’t lock the money into a 24-month CD, even if it earns more interest than a regular savings account. Talk this over with a banker if you need help.
- Invest wisely. In one of Jesus’s parables, a master commended his servants who wisely invested the money he placed in their care (Matthew 25.14-30). This parable has a spiritual dimension, as does money management. Greed is a path to destruction, but wise management of all God entrusts to us honors him. Make sure you give to organizations and choose investment plans carefully. In short, read the fine print.
- Spend carefully. Learn to distinguish needs from wants. If the purchase I’m considering is a “want,” that doesn’t mean I have to walk away from it, but I should think more about the purchase. Can I use it to bless someone else? Will I have to go without something I need because of it? Will I still be able to give generously? Also, refuse to take on debt for lesser things because it can be an enslaving, long-term burden. Education, medical, mortgage, and transportation expenses are all either investments or necessities that may require debt. Racking up thousands of dollars on a high-interest credit card for the latest technologies, designer fashions, or vacations is not worth it.
Jesus knows the grip money can take on our souls — he mentioned it more than heaven or hell! So I encourage you (and myself!) to heed Hebrews 13.5: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’”