Last month, we started talking about some of the lessons our family learned duirng our first few months of applying God's principles to our lives by talking about the need to be flexible. (Not an easy lesson for a type-A, rules girl like me. Trust me, the more "relaxed" among us will struggle less with flexibility. ) This month, we're tackling a common issue many people commonly deal with when they start budgeting: The struggle to say “No.”
When we started living on a budget and repaying our debt, we had to say “NO” to many things. In fact, until our debt was repaid, we stopped spending on anything that wasn’t a necessity. We stopped eating out at restaurants, spending money on recreation, buying clothes, or things for the house. We only bought what was necessary for our survival. It was hard to say, “NO” to things that would be useful, but weren’t absolutely necessary. However, it was absolutely necessary that we get out of debt, so we learned to say “NO.”
Realistically, the responsibility for saying “NO” will fall on the person who has the main responsibility for the family finances, the family’s Chief Financial Officer. Initially, my Mom had this role in our family, but when she went to Heaven, her role fell to me. It didn’t take long for me to realize that this job was hard! The most difficult part was being the one who had to say, “NO”.
“No, we can’t buy that right now, we need the money for something else.”
“No, we can’t eat out again this month; we’ve spent our entertainment allowance.”
“No, we need to save that money to use for this need.”
I felt like Captain Killjoy!
It was really hard saying, “NO”, but just because something is hard, doesn't mean you can avoid doing what's right. If you can explain why you are saying “NO”, it may help. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. If we are going to follow God’s principles for money, live on a budget, and avoid debt, we must learn to say “NO” when we can’t afford something. Whether we are saying it to ourselves or our families, it is hard to hear, but necessary to our financial survival.
Here’s some good news: with time, it will become easier. You and your family will learn a new lifestyle and the word “NO” will become a familiarity instead of a shock. If you include your children in the budgeting process they will come to understand that there is a limited amount of money and it needs to be spent wisely and shared among the family members. It is good for you to teach them this lesson now rather than have them learn it later on as adults.
Part of the learning to say "No" lesson is learning to wait.
Sometimes we have a need and we can’t say “NO”. If the money isn’t available right then we need to learn to wait. If there’s one thing Americans really hate, it’s waiting. We want things right away. Because we live in a culture in which we are accustomed to getting things right away, we need to retrain our brains to think differently (Romans 12:1-2). In a world where most people go into debt to avoid waiting, we must learn to go against the trend.
Sometimes we need to wait to buy something until we have more money available. This just happened to me last week. It was near the end of a budget cycle and porterhouse steaks went on sale. My family loves porterhouse steaks, and I try to buy them when they are on sale. Otherwise, they don’t fit into the budget. Unfortunately, by the time I found out about the sale our food allowance was almost spent. I could not afford them. I had to wait until the next time they went on sale to buy them. They just weren’t a priority last week. Next month, (when they go on sale again) I will buy them.
Part of living on a budget is learning how to prioritize which things need to be purchased first and then wait for the other things. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get them, it just means you have to wait until the money becomes available.
There are other times when you can’t buy something because it is too expensive, so you have to wait until it goes on sale. I remember years ago, my Mom found a winter coat that she absolutely loved in early October. It was still full price, and it didn’t fit into her budget at the time. She decided to wait. Eventually, the coat went on sale and she purchased it for 70% off. She enjoyed her coat for several years.
When you live on a budget, you need to learn to stretch your money. Often that means waiting for things to go on sale. Because of the turnover in the retail market, all clothes go on sale a few weeks after arriving in the stores. If you are willing to wait, you can really stretch your clothing budget. You can stretch your grocery dollars if you buy items that are on sale. Even household items frequently go on sale. If you are willing to wait, you can stick to your budget and still have the things you need.
Sometimes it is necessary to wait until you save the money to buy something. This is totally against the thinking of our culture. We buy now and pay later. When we live by God’s money managing principles, we learn to save now and buy later. This is a good lesson to teach your children. Don’t give them everything they want. Once in a while, make them save the money and buy it for themselves. After a few weeks or months of saving, they will treasure the item they waited so long to get. It will help them learn the valuable lesson of waiting and saving.
Finally, there are times when we must learn to wait on God to help us financially. There are times when we need things and we simply cannot afford them. This is not the time to go into debt. This is the time to pray and ask God to provide them for you. Maybe He will help you earn the money or lead you to a fantastic sale on the item. Sometimes He may even bless you and give it to you after you have waited awhile.
A few years ago, our ministry needed a digital camera, but it wasn’t in the ministry budget. Since our personal budget was experiencing a strain at the same time, I decided to use our regular camera for the time being and wait. Then I prayed that God would provide this need. To my surprise, several months later a digital camera arrived in the mail. Someone I don’t even know felt led to send it to the ministry. God saw our need and provided it.
Although waiting goes completely against our culture and mindset, it is a way of life in God’s kingdom. Throughout the Bible we see God allowing His people to go through a time of waiting to teach them something. Waiting is good for us. It teaches us patience, perseverance, and gratefulness. I can guarantee whether you’ve waited for money to become available, waited for something to go on sale, or waited for God to provide something, you will appreciate it more after the wait than you would have if you’d gotten it right away.
By this time you may have noticed that learning to live by God’s financial principles isn’t just about learning fiscal responsibility, it involves a complete change of our hearts and minds.
Really, this month’s lesson isn’t about financial practices---it’s about character traits that we need to develop. Flexibility. Self-Control. Patience. Developing these virtues won’t just improve your financial life; they will improve your entire lives. Reordering your finances is just one of the methods that God will use to help us grow and mature in these areas and become more like Him. He isn’t just interested in changing our debt balances and bank balances---He’s interested in changing us into daughters who will glorify Him with our lives. This is never an easy process, but it’s the most worthwhile process in the world!
Looking for More Biblical Teaching on Finances? Check out our Video Series, "Five Minutes to Financial Freedom"