In the continuing quest to remove clutter from my life, I’ve been putting a lot of thought as to how to apply this to my finances. What exactly constitutes financial clutter? My first thought is an obvious one…credit cards. These little con-artists hide in your wallet or purse, trying to convince you that you can afford that thing in front of you, or that unbudgeted meal out, or that vacation you really “need”. This leads to a greater accumulation of things along with a greater accumulation of debt. Clutter abounds and peace disappears. You end up awake at night under the great weight of “how did it get this bad?” When I operate on a cash-only basis (pay all my bills the day I get my paycheck, then remove my budgeted money for groceries in cash) I know exactly what I have on hand to spend. Either I have it in my purse or I don’t. No conning myself into charging it. I dwell in peace. The next financial clutter-fighter is to re-examine your definition of “wants” vs “needs”. If your finances need de-cluttering…focus on needs only. When you get in a habit of overspending, it so easily snowballs. You start off buying extra things at the grocery store, then you are eating out when you can’t afford to, followed by pedis you “need” (when you have all the stuff to do it at home except the fancy massage chair); the next thing you know you are charging a week’s vacation because you really needed a break. What you don’t seem to remember is how you will feel when those bills roll in. There’s no vacation that will make those go away. Putting “wants” on a credit card is a great way to remain in debt forever. Another side to that coin is putting “needs” on a credit card. If you are in the position where you are going into debt for basics like food and fuel for your car, you are not in a good place. Going into debt over necessities is a sign of the need for drastic change. Yes, you may have to spend some time eating cheaply and missing out on time with friends because you can’t afford it; but you have to regain the discipline of living within your means. No, it’s generally not fun; but it is WORTH it. Yes, there are instances of people who can handle credit cards…people who can pay them off every month or only use them for things like renting a car. If you can do this, fantastic. You already dwell in peace with your finances. If you find yourself in a cycle of maxing out your credit cards and then struggling to pay them off, you need to de-clutter your finances. If you hold your breath when you hand over your credit card at the check out because you aren’t sure you have enough room on there to buy bread, you need to de-clutter your finances. If you can’t look at amazon.com without making a purchase and then realize your purchase was never sent to you because your card was rejected, you need to de-clutter your finances. If you can’t remember the last time you paid your bills where it didn’t come with a panic attack and a need for an antacid, you need to de-clutter your finances. Savings. You may find what I’m about to say about savings surprising, but hear me out. Savings can either be a source of peace, or a source of stress. Seriously. When your savings account is a source of peace you view it as an emergency back up. It’s there for expected issues, like car repairs, that don’t fit into your monthly budget but hopefully don’t occur often enough that you can’t replenish your savings before the next one hits. But that’s the thing, most of us seem to get hit with one thing after another. Your almost 20 year old car needs new tires, then a new a/c switch, then a new timing belt; and the same week your 7 year old laptop decides its on its last legs. Your dog needs multiple trips to the vet in a month where everyone you know seems to have their birthday. There’s always something.
Yes, it is good to have money in savings; but we cannot depend on our savings to save us. We have a Savior. He has unlimited resources. We need to be responsible with our money; but ultimately we need to remember that He is the One who is taking care of us. We cannot lose our sense of peace because our savings are depleted and we don’t have room on our credit card. We must find our constant and consistent peace in Christ. He doesn’t waiver. He doesn’t ebb and flow with our need. He is our peace, even when we don’t know how we will get through. Sometimes it isn’t pretty. Sometimes it’s a long, hard haul; but we get there, if we stay diligent and dwell on what we have and not on what we don’t. The one thing we will always have is Jesus.