In a different phase of life, my husband and I bought a pizza franchise and opened a restaurant in the little town of Orange, VA. Our good friend, and pizza mentor, Jerry told us that we should look at “pepperonis as quarters.” An individual pepperoni probably costs a penny or less–I never did the math, but I got the point. Wasting food costs me money, and small wastes add up quickly and take money out of my pocket. Little things matter whether you are trying to make money in your business or trying to live within your means on a tight budget.
In my current job, I am a consultant in a small business development center. I meet with people each week who would like to start businesses. Many of these dreams will be derailed or postponed due to poor credit and/or lack of financial resources to get a business started. Often these people have plenty of income, yet they have failed to live within their means. Some of them have made big financial mistakes, such as buying a house that they cannot afford, but many are in trouble because they have failed to control small expenses. They forget that lunches out and $4 cups of coffee can make a big dent in their budgets.
As a Christian, I am a steward of all that God has entrusted to me. When someone mentions stewardship, money management is probably the first thought that comes to mind. Stewardship, however, encompasses all phases of your life, including how you use your time and how you use your talents. We can relate the “pepperonis as quarters” adage to time and talents, as well as to money. Saving a few moments here and there throughout your day can add up and allow you more time to play a game with your child, read a book for pleasure, relax with your spouse, or start a new project. Honing your talents little by little can help you gain speed and proficiency.
I Corinthians 4:2 tells us, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” I hope that this word will encourage you to look for small ways to be a better steward of your time, talent, and money.
My parents raised nine children on a single income, so careful money management was a priority. I don’t recall them ever formally sharing money management lessons. Rather, they instilled good money management habits through their example and casual conversations. One of the ways they taught us good money management skills was by a allowing my sisters to make some of our spending decisions at an early age. The lessons I learned include:
Spending for one thing means less money for something else. When I was about 13, my parents decided to give us each $20 per week allowance. In 1972, $20 was a significant amount of money. In fact, it is equivalent to about $130 today. The catch was that the money had to cover all of our discretionary spending. We were free to pack lunches for school, but if we wanted to buy lunch, it came out of our allowance. We were also responsible for buying our own clothes and paying for movie tickets and other recreation. We learned to manage money and make hard decisions. If I wanted a new pair of shoes, I might have to pack my lunch for a whole week.
Shop the sales. My mother was a master shopper. She watched sales and clipped coupons. I have seen her leave a department store with multiple shopping bags of clothes for which she paid less than $20 in total. She loved to search the clearance racks for a blouse or sweater that everyone else had overlooked, and she loved the challenge of finding the perfect skirt or pair of slacks to go with it. She would go to every clothing store in the mall in search of what she needed to ensure that she got the best bargain. Mom knew what month to shop for appliances or furniture, and she knew when the “white” sales (linens) would be going on. She loved to shop the after-Christmas sales, and she often bought outfits in January which she would give to us the following Christmas. With four daughters born in a 4 ½ year span, she knew one of us would be able to wear the skirts and sweaters she bought.
Buy quality and keep belongings until they wear out. My mother believed it was worth spending a bit more to get better quality. She bought traditional styles that would not go out of fashion, and she wore her clothes until they were worn out. Similarly, Dad taught us to keep cars until the costs of repairs exceeded the car’s value. He and Mom purchased a car when they married in 1955; my middle school principal purchased the car from them in 1974. They added a second car in 1965, as I was starting first grade. I drove that car until my junior year of college, when I was rear ended while driving it.
Save up for major purchases. I don’t recall my parents ever taking out a loan to purchase a car. Of course, a new car was a true rarity in our household. I do recall, however, a couple of occasions when my father borrowed cash from his life insurance policy to cover a major purchase. He explained that the interest rate was very low, and he was, in essence, paying it back to himself.
Balance your checkbook regularly and know where your money is going. Balancing the checkbook before we had computers could be a time-consuming activity. My mother always sat at the kitchen table to balance the checkbook. Canceled checks were returned to the payer in those days. Mom would tape the canceled checks to the check stubs in a large, three-ring binder. She would mark them off on the bank statement and determine what checks she had written that had not cleared. Mom balanced the checking account to the penny, and she was never satisfied until it balanced.
Count the true cost of debt. My parents bought their final home in 1971 for about $35,000. The monthly payment of $238. I believe the interest rate was 7 ¼%. Mom marked off each payment on an amortization schedule. When there was sufficient money, she would make an extra principal payment or two. I remember her explaining to me that when she paid extra money toward the principal, she was saving more than one payment, as the balance went down and less interest accrued from then on. I also recall multiplying $238 by 360 payment and realizing that, if they made each payment as scheduled, the $35,000 house would cost them about $86,000. This was an eye opener and provided an ideal opportunity for us to talk about homes as investments that would increase in value, whereas a car would lose value over time. My mother paid off the house in about 13 years. While my father appreciated not having a mortgage payment, he did fuss more than once over losing the tax deduction of the interest.
Establish credit early and manage it well. When I graduated from high school, my parents bought me a sewing machine. Mom then declared that I needed a sewing cabinet, which I would have to buy myself. We went together to the Singer store and picked out a cabinet. I believe the price was $125. She instructed me to put $25 down and helped me apply for a credit card. When the bill came, I paid off the balance in full. At the age of eighteen, I had established some credit of my own. I never used that credit card again, but it was the key to allowing me to get a Sears card a few years later.
These money management principles have served me well. Steve and I have tried to instill them in our own children. I hope that they will help you to manage your money better and have less financial stress in your life.
For more money management tips and information on creating budgets, please check out my other blog posts under the Finance tab. For those desiring a better understanding of Biblical principles of money management, I have written a book Honoring God with Your Money. It is available on Amazon and from Barnes and Noble.
If you have money questions you would like me to answer, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write your question in the Comment section. Those who email me will be signed up to receive my free quarterly newsletter with money management tips, encouraging stories, and Scripture inspirations.
Stewardship is the word that God impressed upon me to be my focus for 2021. For me, stewardship involves not only managing our money and financial resources well, but also using the talents God grants us and the time allotted to us in ways that honor Him.
Time stewardship is the most challenging of the three for me. I tend to function best when my to-do list is very long and my time to complete it is short. When my to-do list is short, it is easy for me to find get distracted. But the pressure of a long list and little time give me focus and energy. I love making a long list of tasks to be accomplished and then crossing items off as I complete them.
So, why don’t I make a list each day? That is a question I ask myself regularly, and the only answer I have come up with is that I haven’t found the right tool that works for me. But, list-making tools is not the subject of this blog. Rather, this blog is about strategies that I have learned and am attempting to enact to be a better steward of my time, so that I can accomplish the goals God has put into my heart.
Make a List. Your list should include tasks to be completed today, this week, and over the new few weeks. A strategy that I learned many years ago is to include some “routine” tasks that you already do at the start of every day, so that you can quickly cross something from your list. Time management experts recommend “Making the bed” or “Showering” as the first task on the list. Crossing off tasks gives you a sense of accomplishment and will help you to accomplish more with your time.
Stack Habits. This suggestion is from Mark Batterson’s book “Win the Day.” Mark suggests developing good, daily habits by stacking tasks together routinely. Develop a routine to help you start the day off right, and you will manage your day better. For me, I have stacked exercise with Bible reading. When I discovered that I could read books on my kindle while pedaling my exercise bike, my mornings improved significantly. This works best when I get out of bed, grab my kindle, and get on the bike. I start the day with God’s word, and I get my blood flowing. I wake up more fully, and the day goes better.
Prioritize Tasks. It’s not enough to have a list. You have to take some time to consider what tasks must be done today? What tasks can be put off until tomorrow or next week? If you don’t prioritize what needs to be done, you will end of being distracted by emails, phone calls, and tasks that appear urgent but are not critical to you having a successful day. Ask God for wisdom to align your priorities with His.
Minimize Distractions. Set yourself up for success by being pro-activate in minimizing distractions. Timothy Ferriss, author of “The 4-Hour Workweek,” is a master of minimizing distractions to accomplish more in less time. One key tip is to avoid checking emails and responding to texts and phone calls throughout the day. Rather, Ferriss recommends checking emails and messages at a few pre-determined times a day. Evaluate what your primary distractions are and take steps to minimize them. For those who work in an office, an open-door policy might be a major distraction. Consider closing your door and putting a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door for periods of uninterrupted work.
Schedule Down Time. No one should be all work and no play, and no one should spend too much time playing and avoiding work. Everyone needs time to kick back and read a book, watch television, or go out for a leisurely dinner. Plan these times in your schedule to ensure balance in your work and leisure time.
Seek God’s Direction. Start each day with time in God’s word. Pray for wisdom, and listen for His direction. God will show you what is important for you to accomplish each day to fulfill His will for your life.
Ask God to Multiply Your Time. As God multiplied the fishes and the loaves, He can multiply your time. When we seek God’s will and use our time according to His purposes, He will allow us to do more in less time. When you need to get somewhere quickly, and all the traffic lights you encounter are green—that is God’s blessing on your time. If you get in and out of an appointment much faster than you expected, that is also God’s blessing. Make a habit of recognizing God’s hand in allowing tasks to be accomplished quickly and smoothly, and thank Him for those blessings.
There are many other time-management strategies. Which ones are your using? Please share your best tips in the Comments.