Ask Chuck: How to Build Emergency Savings
I make a good salary but am unable to build my emergency savings beyond $1,000. It seems like unexpected things always prevent me from putting more away. My goal is to have 3 months set aside. Any tips?
Living on the Edge
Dear Living on the Edge,
Well first, congratulations on saving the $1,000! That’s more than almost half of the people in America. Setting a goal of 3 months of living expenses in this account is a great next step forward.
The problem most people in our society have is that they confuse their needs and their wants. Many people have not learned to exercise self-control and therefore give in to their own wants or those of their family and often forfeit having what they actually need, like an emergency savings account.
But, in Titus 2: 11-12 Paul wrote: For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…
Developing the ability to say “No” to selfish desires helps us lead a disciplined lifestyle that avoids debt and has the margin necessary to save and invest.
Saying “No” to what we want today grants money for what we need tomorrow. You see, discipline is forward-looking. It is preparation for what we need in the future.
Contentment As A Financial Strategy
The lack of contentment, the fear of missing out (FOMO), and anxiety are so prevalent in our society. But we cannot be satisfied until we look to God as our provider. Recognizing His omnipotence and sufficiency is motivation to humbly steward what He provides. Learning to be content with what we have allows us the opportunity to spend less and save more.
The average American wastes thousands of dollars a year. The reasons vary, but you might analyze your lifestyle to see how you can make adjustments.
Reasons We Overspend
- Bad Habits
- Peer Pressure
- Frivolous, feel-good purchases (“retail therapy”)
Common Money Wasters
- Banking: Maintenance fees, ATM fees, overdraft charges
- Debt: Interest from credit cards, payday loans, fees for late payments
- Personal: hair, manicures, pedicures, tattoos, make-up, massages, gym memberships, workout gear, vitamins and supplements
- Vices: tobacco, drugs, alcohol, overeating, gambling, buying lottery tickets
- Neglecting to use gift cards, coupons, rebates or returns
- Buying prepackaged foods, eating out, delivery, bottled water and coffee
- Entertainment: cable, streaming services, sporting events, concerts, movie and theatre tickets
- Cell phones, data, apps, music
- Subscriptions, magazines, buying books instead of using the library
- Children: baby gear and toys, excessive babysitting fees, expensive childcare and education
- College: student loans, changing degrees, dropping classes, partying
- Cars: ignoring routine maintenance, unnecessary driving, parking and traffic tickets
- Homes: high utility bills, ignoring routine maintenance, buying too much house, furniture, PMI.
- Pets: vet bills, food, boarding or sitting fees, deposits for renting
- Fashion: buying fads, brand names, dry cleaning costs
- Weddings and honeymoons, luxury vacations, souvenirs
- Travel: airline fees for last minute trips, check bag fees
- Gifts: Christmas and birthday décor, gifts and parties
- Automobiles: depreciation cost of new cars, interest on auto loans, tickets, insurance
- Storage units filled with “stuff”
Moving Off the Financial Edge
Wasting money means lost opportunities for giving, saving or investing. Many people are mismanaging money without even knowing it. It’s easy to get comfortable in lifestyle choices and fail to recognize the lack of frugality.
- Carry a notebook and record all spending to see your areas of strength and weakness.
- Create a budget and faithfully abide by it.
- Set financial goals and track your progress daily, weekly, monthly
For some, the burden of credit card debt may be preventing you from saving like you’d like to. If you’re experiencing the stress and strain of overwhelming credit card debt, get in touch with our trusted friends at Christian Credit Counselors. They’ve been serving God’s people for years and have helped over 300,000 families pay off their credit cards and can help you, too.
Simplify by choosing to live like you’re poor. This works! You can create margin and discover the joy of stewarding well all that God provides. Children, friends and colleagues will benefit from observing your disciplined lifestyle. It’s largely a matter of turning your back on worldly desires so you can live a self-controlled life. Don’t complain when changing your lifestyle but give thanks for every dollar you can save.
Don’t Give Up
If you can save $1,000, you can save $2,000 and if you can save $2,000, you can save $10,000. It takes time, perseverance and the Lord’s help. Keep going! Let us know how we can help. We have great online classes you can explore at Crown.org.
Originally published on the Christian Post, August 30, 2019