Ask Chuck: Struggling Newlyweds

Dear Chuck,

My wife and I are newlyweds and struggling to spend less than we earn. Our parents agreed to help us until our first anniversary which is in February. To prepare for that date, we need help now.

Spending Stress

 

Dear Spending Stress, 

This has been a challenging time for many couples especially with the ease and constant availability of online shopping. With the click of a button, we can have just about anything we need or want delivered to our doorstep. 

Spending less than you earn is the golden key to financial stability. Without this, you will always be under stress. But it is not a common practice for millions of individuals and couples. 

Many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Bankrate’s January Financial Security Index survey of Americans revealed:

  • 41% of adults would use savings to cover a $1,000 emergency room visit or car repair.
  • 37% would borrow money if hit with an unexpected bill.
  • 28% said they or a close relative paid for a major unanticipated expense in the past year averaging $3,518.

You can order your finances in a way that honors God by establishing a reasonable standard of living and choosing to make His priorities yours. 

Look back over your marriage and pre-marriage years. Both of you came into the marriage with a philosophy of money. Instead of relying on what you were taught in the past, learn God’s financial principles. 

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

We can be trained to change our behaviors, but transformation–a total renewal from the inside–comes through having our minds renewed by God’s truth. Good beliefs produce good behavior. When a couple’s beliefs are unified, the fruit we produce as husband and wife will bless each other and the world.

If you lack a financial plan, have bad spending habits, and make extravagant lifestyle choices, you and your wife need to unite in a concerted effort to make a change. Recognize that God is the owner of everything and that you are a steward, a manager, of all He provides.  

Learning to spend less than you earn now will impact your marriage and finances for the rest of your life. You will be free to give as God directs, save, invest, and not have to borrow for major expenditures. You will set an example for others and motivate them to make adjustments.

I recently asked people for tips on living below or within their means. Perhaps some of these suggestions will resonate with you and your wife.

  • Maximize your income
  • Educate yourself about money
  • Budget and set goals
  • Give first, pay yourself, then pay your bills
  • Automate savings
  • Learn to cook at home and enjoy leftovers
  • Make breakfast and pack a lunch
  • Don’t finance depreciating items
  • Don’t try to keep up with or impress others
  • Find friends who also want to live below their means
  • Continually cut back
  • Make no impulse purchases
  • Create an emergency fund
  • Limit exposure to advertising
  • Find a good mentor
  • Get out of debt and stay out of debt
  • Buy a house and car far below your means
  • Review everything you have or do, then reduce
  • Spend free time with people not shopping or browsing

Another idea is financial fasting. Like fasting from food, you give up something for a period of time. It can provide margin quickly on a tight budget. Here are some examples: don’t eat out for a month, don’t buy new clothes for 3 months, don’t buy entertainment – instead, play board games, borrow videos, hike, bike, or go to museums…don’t buy anything new for a month. You get the idea.

A new survey conducted by MassMutual reveals that 1 in 5 Americans saved $1,000 this summer due to coronavirus restrictions. They spent less on weddings, vacations, travel, nightlife, and personal care. Without a clear plan, that money will be spent elsewhere. That plan is called a budget. 

If you have consumer debt, then you, the borrower, are a slave to the lender. Since we don’t see lenders face-to-face we don’t think about this truth every…single… time we use a credit card. But, we are, in fact, held captive until that money is paid back. Debt limits generosity. We miss the joy in blessing others because oftentimes money is spent on stuff we don’t need. But, there are millions of people with needs we cannot even fathom. Make a plan to pay off your debt.

Paul learned to be content in whatever situation he was in and so can you:

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance, and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13 ESV)

Don’t allow the world to dictate how you spend your money. Renew your mind on the truth of God’s Word. Be grateful for what you have, maximize income, and minimize expenses. This will allow you to reduce debt quickly so you can experience the abundant life that God wants for you. Oh, and one more tip, use our fantastic new program called Money Dates to help you and your spouse to get united! It works! 

 

This article was originally published on The Christian Post, September 4, 2020.

Step into this next season in control of your finances.