Your Spending Discovery List is the first step in getting control of your finances. You cannot plan or move without first having some idea of what you are doing now. Examine how you handled the assignment of keeping track of your expenditures.
You will have one of three outcomes:
Some of you may have actually done this and done it prayerfully. You are already seeing positive change in your life and spending. You haven’t bought as much stuff. You might see daylight in your finances that you haven’t seen before.
Some of you have only been keeping sporadic track of your expenditures. You have some idea of how you spend, but you need some more motivation.
Some of you haven’t taken it very seriously at all (nobody here, I am sure) and you still have no idea where all the money goes during the weeks or month.
That’s how we all got to here, today. We get where we are, today, as a result of our past actions – our habits and attitudes. The little, daily ways in which we pay attention, make decisions, or take action are what builds your life. To change your habits and your life, you need to want to change badly enough to do the things you’ve been unwilling to do before. Not unable, but unwilling.
If you are a #1, keep on doing it – get better at it. This is what our ultimate objective in financial management is – glorify God with our finances.
If it is your attitude to not take this seriously – or your habit is to spend at will without thought, then you’ll always be in financial difficulty. If you sorta care, and you sorta know, then you’ll sorta have problems.
If you believe God wants us to be good stewards – to glorify Him in how we live – prayerfully consider how to manage His stuff. You reward will be to hear Him say, “Well done, good, and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.”
Your Spending Discovery List is the beginning of your journey to Christian Financial Freedom. Your Financial Health Worksheet gives you monthly status check-points for your trip. Your List of Bills and Creditors centralizes information about who you owe and how much you owe. You know where you are. With that, you can begin to think about where you want to go. When you decide where you want to go, then you can construct a plan of action that gives you daily help in getting there.
“You’ve got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going ‘cause you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll wind up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where…”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
“If you pray, believing it is true, it will be answered…”
Goals help us focus our thoughts. Focused thoughts lead to focused actions. Focused actions lead to Expected Results. Goals are where we want to go.
Goals are like the targets at the archery range. Though hitting bull’s-eyes is gratifying, more important to everybody on the range is that all the arrows go THAT way… Goals help you stay on course. Goals should be SMART. This is an Acronym to help you make and write effective goals.
Ø Specific – described in detail with time and accountability.
Ø Measurable – quantities, not qualities. Amounts, dates, quantity, etc.
Ø Achievable – Within your reach, but not within your grasp. Not limiting our God, but recognizing that we are stewards of His assets.
Ø Relevant – These goals fit you and your family. They make sense to you in your own context.
Ø Trackable – You can mark your progress on a chart. You receive frequent and timely enough information that you can make adjustments as required – the Goal, the Plan, the Actions.
Goals also have time aspects to them. You can group goals as Long-term, Mid-term, and Short term.
Using a vacation trip as an example, the long-term goal would be to go to Orlando and return. The mid-term goal would be to visit certain states and attractions along the way. The short-term goal would be to reach City A by suppertime on Monday. Similar goal-setting should be done for your financial life.
What are some examples of the kinds of Goals we should have?
Ø Christian Service
Can you write some SMART goals in these areas?
“What man, when building a building does not count the cost…”
Planning can be completely overwhelming. Entire college courses are devoted to planning. There are professional societies that take planning to new heights in complexity. Planning can be tough. But your planning is going to be simple.
Planning is nothing more than deciding – today – how to act – tomorrow.
(JAS 4:13-15) “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is God’ swill, we will live and do this or that.’”
By including God in your plans, they will more likely succeed. Knowing that God has plans for you and asking Him for guidance in choosing your plans is even better.
Planning is simply thinking through what needs to be done to accomplish your goals and writing it down. By asking what needs to be done each day to reach your goal, you have a plan that might actually work. We can reach our goals if we plan, pray, and act on our plans and prayers.
Plans, like Goals, have a time aspect to them. The Long-term Plan would be to live as God wants us to live. The mid-term Plan would to be out of debt by June, 3 years from now. The short term plan would be to begin giving to God, put the credit cards away, spend only cash as outlined in the Spending Plan, and cook more meals from fresh.
Your plans will fail, however, if you do not work at making them succeed. There are also several common problems that will get in your way. They are the “yeah-buts”. You need to do thus and so. “Yeah-but… I can’t because…” You have to transform your mind. You have to let God handle the yeah-buts. With God, All things are possible. Which part of All doesn’t include your circumstance?
Here are some of the common obstacles.
Ø Habits – impulsive spending, poor planning skills, lack of discipline.
Ø Poor prior decisions – getting into debt, get rich quick, supporting others’ poor habits.
Ø Circumstances – job or lack, health, accidents.
Ask the Lord for help in tearing down these strongholds.
(1 JN 1:9) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
There are 6 steps that make planning work. You make decisions at each step.
In order to reach goals, you must have a plan. Since these goals we have been talking about are financial goals, we have to have a plan concerning our financial lives. We already saw, in your List of Bills, the beginnings of this plan – You know what you owe. Since you can’t very well get to someplace unless you know where you are, knowing what you owe allows you to make a plan to change your situation.
Let’s say that you owe $5,000. Let’s set a goal to get out of this debt in 2 years. A simple plan would be to make payments in excess of your spending of how much? About $200 per month. This requires that you set aside about $7 per day. This is the outline of a plan, but not quite complete. Where is the $7 going to come from? How will you accumulate it? Where will you put it until it is time to make the payment?
All of these questions are important, but the most important is, “Where will the money come from?” To answer that, you need to make a Spending Plan.
In order to reach your Goals, you need to have a plan. Since we are talking about financial goals, you need to have a plan for how you will earn and spend your income. This Spending Plan is your Plan of Action on how you will allocate your scarce income. You will plan, or decide how you will act. You will impose your own discipline on your spending habits. You decide – today – how you intend to spend your money – tomorrow.
The Spending Plan is also known as a Budget. But since “Budget” has such a negative image, one of restrictions rather than freedoms, none of you want to make and live by a budget. Making and living by a Spending Plan, however, sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
There is no right Spending Plan, except that you should plan on spending less than you earn. Other than that, you decide. There are some guidelines you can use to gauge how your plan looks relative to national averages, but since all of us are above average – right? – they are just guidelines.
Let’s look at the Spending Plan at the end of this chapter..
You start by transferring any expenditures from your Spending Discovery List to the Spending Plan. Again, if you want to go somewhere, you need to know where you are to start.
Total up all the sections. All your Incomes minus all your Outgoes equals your Net. If you are spending less than you earn, this number will be positive. If not, you need to do some planning and deciding.
Go to each of the areas where your Spending Discovery List showed you a surprise. Reduce that area on your Spending Plan. Go through each of the categories and pray about how you can glorify God, and decide on a new number. Continue until you have adjusted all of the categories. You decide how to allocate your income until the Net comes out positive, and you are comfortable or satisfied with the amounts in the categories.
If you can’t get to a positive Net, then you have to do some hard deciding. You will need to thoroughly examine your lifestyle and your habits to find out where you are over-spending your ability to earn. You MUST make the decisions to adjust your spending.
When you are all finished with your deciding, you need to put the Spending Plan into action. Here is where you apply new discipline and build new habits. This is the hardest part of all. Making the plan is easy… Putting it into practice is not.
That is the essence of this class – helping you see that you need to make changes, and helping you see how to make those changes. Each area of your life contains a financial component. Your habits and discipline up to this time have shaped how you spend. To make progress, you must change your habits by imposing another discipline to your life.
It’s possible that in order to reduce your spending, you will have to un-do some of your earlier decisions. You might need to turn back that dream-car that is simply too expensive for you. You might need to find a less-expensive apartment or house. You may need to move to a different neighborhood or town. If you are spending way more than you earn, then you may be trying to live a lifestyle that you can’t afford. You are living beyond your means. You need to develop habits of spending within your means.
Start with one area to change. There are some simple disciplines that will begin to save you money and allow you to change habits. You change a bit at a time – being transformed by the renewing of your mind – by examining what you are doing now and comparing that with what you want to do. Keep the list of changes to make handy and review it frequently.
For example, here are some steps to take with food and groceries that should make a difference in your grocery bill.
This list of 10 simple steps should help you save quite a bit on your grocery bills. If you are already doing some or all of these steps, then examine your performance and consistency in these areas. Commit to making the appropriate changes in behavior to make you successful in each of these areas. Let your “Yes” be Yes and your “No” be No.
You can make similar changes in each of your living areas by examining your behavior, asking God how you should be acting, and making small changes each and every day.
You start your journey with a single step. You don’t wait for all of the lights to turn green – you move out and get started. You can’t steer a parked car.
The Spending Discovery List exercise we had you do these past few weeks is a vital part of knowing where you are. If you will not commit to this simple exercise, then you will probably not commit to making any habit changes. Find out where all your money is going.
Having SMART Financial Goals is important to your success. Write them down. Keep them handy. Review them daily.
Goals lead to plans. Plan how you will reduce your expenses with the Spending Plan. Plan how you will change your behavior each day. Start small, but start.
(Or, contact John & Sandi Larson via email at: email@example.com)
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Job #1: __________________
Job #2: __________________
Other Income: ______________
Debt Reduction: _____________ List:
Creditor #1: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #2: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #3: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #4: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #5: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #6: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #7: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #8: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #9: __________________, $_______________
Creditor #10: _________________, $_______________
Food & Supplies: ____________
Doctors & Dentists: __________
Day Care: __________________
Rent or Mortgage: __________
Natural Gas: _______________
Water & Sewer: _____________
Tennant Fees: _______________
Gas & Oil: ________________
Bus Tickets: ________________
Cable TV: __________________
Day Care: __________________
Home Owners: ______________
Health & Accident: __________
Office Supplies: _____________
Total Discretionary: __________________
Income: ___________ - Mandatory: __________ - Debt: __________ - Discretionary: _________
= Net: _____________