I’ve heard that my generation doesn’t want to address the topic of money. If I’m being honest, a year ago, the thought of managing money as an adult seemed so daunting that I, as well, wanted to let it be. But money “runs the world” as they say and it can not be ignored. I started reading a book about money, took an Economics class, and did a lot of writing in my “money book.” It is still complex to me, but it doesn’t seem impossible anymore.
My first introduction to money management came through Sunday School when I was about 7 years old. I don’t recall what the lesson was about, but afterward, we decorated paper wallets that had three envelopes stapled on. There was a saving envelope, a spending envelope, and an envelope for tithe. That Sunday School teacher will probably never know how much that one craft shaped my viewpoint on money. It was used for years and I still use a different form of that envelope system.
Becoming an adult makes the saving and spending envelopes become more compartmentalized, though. There are regular payments and bigger items to save for. It also seems like wish lists grow, as well. I don’t believe it is possible to keep all of this straight without writing out a budget. (Even then it can be hard to keep all the numbers straight!)
Financial advisors are always suggesting that people save a good chunk of their money. I have rarely had a problem putting this advice into action. In fact, I have taken it too far at times. Taking an Economics class redefined the way I view money though: it is meant to be spent. I learned that if you put money into a savings account, you lose money long term. That blew my mind. I’m not arguing against saving here, though. It is wise to have some money put away in case of an emergency or ready to use if an incredible opportunity comes up. I am saying that there should be a balance between saving and spending. (Also, investing savings might be a better place for your money than the bank.) A good way to look at savings is as putting away money to spend in the future on something bigger\ better\ needed. At the same time, we should not place our security in having money in the bank. God provides for us as we walk the road He is leading us down.
Spending money can leave our wallets so quickly. In the American culture, it seems like everywhere we turn someone is trying to get us to buy something. Magazines, websites, and even social media show off enviable items to us. They show us the life we want. No wonder so many people are in debt! If we bought everything that caught our eye, we would spend far more money than we possess. I have a running wish list, but I have been trying to not focus on what I don’t own as much. Elisabeth Elliot offered wise words when she said, “By trying to grab fulfillment everywhere, we find it nowhere.” I try to spend money on experiences versus things (such as a cup of coffee that is gone in an hour! When it gives space for conversation with a friend, things change a little.). An experience will enrich me. So buying a piano or a camera is valuable, because they will be used to create experiences and grow my talents. Travelling or seeing a play are also experiences worth spending money on. Clothes on the other hand may not usually hold as much importance to me because I already have enough of them.
The tithe category can also be called giving. The New Testament actually replaces the Old Testament %10 rule with what we feel led to give. (Which often would end up being more than %10– which is probably why so many people stick with the number in black and white.) We give because it is God’s money and we are simply stewarding it. This category actually effects the attitude toward all the other categories. It opens our hands so we hold our money more freely; makes us more willing to give to others in love. It also gives money meaning. We see that we can make a difference in someone else’s life and give to organizations that will share the love of God. Giving to our local church should be a priority, but beyond that there are so many opportunities!
I hope my generation will invest time into thinking through how they will spend their money. It is just another area that we have been given to steward. Creating a budget is a lot of work at first, but money will enslave us if we don’t make conscious, sometimes hard, decisions about how we will spend it.