God and money--strategic spending
The present economy is an opportunity
Finding balance between spending and saving
Jesus often ended his parables with the words, "him that has an ear, let him hear." That meant that if you could understand what he was talking about, to not only hear the story but be guided by it into action. The present economy is an opportunity for those who "have an ear". Our national economy depends on people spending money, as 70 percent of the economy is based on consumer activity--that means buying things. So if you want the economy to improve, you have to buy some stuff. If more people buy things, we can get out of the hole. But at the same time, buying things may have been what got us in trouble in the first place. So how do we balance buying things with not getting into more trouble? The answer is strategic spending.
What is strategic spending? It is planned spending on things of value. There are two levels of this that I want to explore here. First is spending on things of absoute value and the second is spending on things of relative value. Things of absolute value are items that will get more valuable over time. A bank account has absolute value because it pays interest and therefore, it will get bigger over time. That is why saving is so important. However there are things you should buy that also grow in value. These things are called investments. Stocks have absolute value. Although they bounce around, over time they grow. Bonds have absolute value. A growing business has absolute value.
If you want to purchase something of absolute value, I recommend you purchase stocks. If you saw that your favorite shoes, which normally sell for $200 were now selling for $50, you would buy them. You would buy two pair, or maybe even three. If steaks were on sale, you would buy them, even if you were only going to freeze them and cook them later. Well, stocks are on sale! This is what is meant by "buy low and sell high". Prices are low now, so now is the time to buy. You don't even have to spend a lot of money. Open an account with any of the online stock purchasers, such as E-trade, Ameritrade or Sharebuilder and buy low cost index funds. These are funds that mimic the total stock or bond market. They usually have names like Total Stock Market Fund or Total Bond Market Fund. All the online websites have search functions so you can type in "Stock Market Index Funds" or something similar into the search box and get a list of what they have. Sharebuilder will let you buy with as little as $10. There is a fee for the service but even that is not much. And you are buying something that increases in value.
Another purchase that has absolute value is food. Everyone has to eat. Food can even be used as currency in certain bartering situations. With all the weather disasters that have been happening lately and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, food supply and price is going to be affected. That means rising prices. Food with a long shelf life, such as dried or canned items can be stored and consumed when needed. If you are going to make an investment in food by stocking up, buy things you would normally eat. Also purchase a variety of foods. I once found myself with six boxes of brown rice--it took me a while to figure out what to to with that. Check the dates on the cans and packages. Food doesn't ever have to spoil, you can eat it, or trade it or give it to someone else before the date on it is past.
Things of relative value are things that everyone may not value but you value them. Maybe you love the theatre. Everyone would not spend big money on theatre tickets but you would if you could. Well, you could. How? By spending less money on things you don't care that much about. The downside of frugality is that it can make you feel like you have to give up everything you enjoy. Mere survival is not the same as living. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly." The thief he is talking about is false teachers. There are false teachers who would have you believe you have to live like a monk, which is fine if you are a monk . I believe not only is it OK to have things you love in moderation, but that God will provide these things if you live His way. The words Jehovah Jireh mean God the Provider. If you are getting rid of debt, saving for emergencies, putting retirement money away and paying your tithes, there's no reason you can't have things you enjoy some of the time.
Make your money last through focused spending
Spending without guilt
You can create what I call the "Fun Fund". You don't have to have a bank account for this. You can just keep the funds in a safe place. If you do create a separate account for this money, make sure you get one without a lot of fees. This is money you are going to spend as you please so you want it to be accessible. Here you can do you relative value spending. You can buy things you enjoy as soon as you have the money. I love to travel, especially to the beach. When I have enough money in the fun fund to go out of town, I start making plans. I don't have to feel guilty about spending the money because that's what it is for.
Also, there are things you buy that you could find less expensive alternatives for without feeling the pain at all. The money you save on these adjustments in spending could go to the fun fund...for more FUN! For example, I love shoes, but I am neutral about pantyhose. Instead of paying $6 for a pair of hose, I can pay $2 and put $4 into the fun fund. In a short time, I have enough for a new pair of shoes. I save on what I don't love so I can splurge on what I do love. I'm not dipping into other funds, I'm not running up debt and I am happy!
As a Christian, I also enjoy doing nice things for other people, that they might not do for themselves, "because it's too expensive." I can treat a friend to lunch at a nice restaurant. I can pay a friend's way to a concert or the movies. The fun fund empowers me to do this. A fun fund is true wealth, because true wealth is really about freedom and you can be totally free with this money. The only limit on you is the amount you have in the fund. No borrowing is allowed.
Relative value spending also allows you to take advantage of discounts on things you have to buy anyway. Clothes are on sale at certain times of the year. So are cars, appliances, bed and bath items, school supplies and so on. Save up for these times and buy them in their season. Some states have tax-free days. Save up for these special days and then take advantage of them when they come.
Money and credit are neither good nor bad. The key is in how you use them. Having a spending strategy allows you to enjoy your life today, and not thirty years from now. At the same time, a strategy keeps you from getting into trouble with spending. You can build a financial house and enjoy living in it. God, who is able to do all things, can give you the wisdom, the power and the money to do so.