By Terry Frisk
The past year has significantly impacted our lives in many ways. One positive impact has been on our personal finances. While some people found themselves unemployed, their finances were buoyed by increased unemployment benefits and stimulus payments. For the most part, people continued to receive similar income compared to the pre-pandemic and spent less on commuting, travel, entertainment and other activities that were limited due to the pandemic.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that 30% of American adults report their family’s finances have improved over the past year. According to the U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal savings rates skyrocketed to 33% of income in April of last year and has remained at historically high levels since. In addition, after ten years of increases in credit card debt, Wallethub reported the total amount of credit card debt deceased $82.9 billion in 2020. It has truly been a unique year.
Hopefully, these newly developed financial habits will continue as we emerge from the pandemic. While I believe we need to treat ourselves for the hard work and sacrifice we have encountered, I also believe these treats should be in the form of experiences that enrich our lives. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus is conveying that our desire for material possessions stands in the way of our relationship with God. As our world starts to reopen and we become more optimistic about the future, there will be growing desire to resume old spending habits. How do we overcome this desire? Plan ahead and consider these tips:
- Recognize that your income is a blessing from God.He has entrusted you to use your money wisely to serve Him. He wants you to achieve a balance between giving, saving and spending so that you do not become a slave to money. Attain this balance through prayer.
- Give to support God’s work.Start with what youcan contribute today and strive to increase your giving to a full tithe or more. 2 Corinthians 9:7 states we should give what we have decided in our heart to give. I believe this is encouraging us to exceed our giving above tithing, not less.
- Create a budget that focuses on your true needs.Allocate an amount for giving and saving first. Also, include an amount for unforeseen expenses that may occur.
- Prayerfully consider every major purchase.Before shopping, determine how much you are prepared to payand stick with it. Create a savings account for major purchases. I maintain a savings fund that I contribute to each month for replacing my auto. When it comes time to trade vehicles, I have a set amount of cash available. This eliminates the temptation to pay too much and reduces the stress of negotiating since I have an established amount to pay. That said, avoid blowing your entire savings on material items. Again, strive to achieve a balance between giving, saving and spending.
- Be careful withdebt.Not all debt is bad. Very few people purchase a home without a mortgage. However, your mortgage payment should not exceed 25% of your income. If it does, you are buying a home that you cannot afford. If you use credit cards, pay them off monthly. If you are carrying a credit card balance, then you are spending beyond your means.
Regardless of whether you are among those whose finances improved over the past year, now is a good time to develop a financial plan for the future. Prayerfully consider how to put it to best use to serve God. Remember, it’s still our responsibility to be good stewards with the abundance that God has provided. Take care and may God bless!
Terry Frisk is a partner in the firm B2B CFO, providing financial advisory services to small businesses. He also counsels individuals on personal financial matters through the Cathedral of the Rockies Budget Counseling ministry. He may be contacted through e-mail at [email protected].