by Don Dilmore
Owing no man anything is easier said than done—primarily because we are accustomed to being in debt and we believe everyone else is in the same boat.
It is natural to like nice things. Even children ask for more things because they notice their friends have more. In response many families go into debt to acquire more, leading to anxiety and worries about how to pay a credit card bill, the mortgage, or an auto loan. Debt distracts us from doing our best at work and eventually it can affect our health.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You can live debt free if you will follow a few basic steps. First, let’s look at why you need to do this.
God does not want us to be in debt. He has many reasons for telling us, “Owe no man anything.”
• Many broken homes are the result of debt.
• We deny God the opportunity to bless us when we are deep in debt.
• Debt can jeopardize our children’s education and our own retirement.
• We don’t get the proper rest and relaxation we need when we are worrying about debt.
• Debt may keep us from giving back to God what rightfully belongs to him.
• We set a poor example for our children and grandchildren.
• We spend our money on interest payments rather than on things we need or in helping others.
If you need an extra push to encourage you to eliminate debt, try this. Determine the amount of money you have spent in the last 12 months on interest: credit cards, bank loans, car payments, mortgage, and so on. Write your total in large numbers on a sheet of paper. This represents a sum of money you could spend in other ways, save for your children’s college tuition, or invest for your retirement—if you were debt free.
If that is not motivation enough, think about the time you spend worrying about debt, negotiating debt, and discussing debt with your spouse.
What Can I Do About It?
Many people dislike the word budget, but that is the first step. You must set up a budget if you want to manage your resources successfully.
However, don’t do like this couple did. A man who worked for me was deeply in debt. He and his wife had good jobs but they owed large sums of money. They came to me for advice. When I asked to see their budget he said, “We don’t have anything written down, but when we get home on Fridays with our paychecks, we go to the grocery store and buy the next week’s groceries. Then we look at our bills and decide which ones we have to pay to keep our creditors at bay. Then we take what money is left and decide how we can impress the most people with what we have.”
Whether or not we want to admit it, that is how many people handle their money. God is not impressed with our big cars, expensive houses, or magnificent wardrobes. He is impressed with how we handle what he has given us.
Before you do anything else, bring your family together to pray. Ask for God’s help to accomplish your goal of becoming debt free. Continue praying toward that end until your goal is accomplished.
Your next step is to sit down as a couple and determine the amount of money you will commit to your tithe, housing, transportation, clothes, savings, utilities, charities, children’s allowances, and so on. The total needs to be less than your net income. Then stick to it.
Steps to Financial Freedom
Where are you paying the highest amount of interest? If you’re like many families, your highest interest payments go toward credit card debt.
Make a commitment to stop using your credit cards until you have paid off your current balance.
Write to each of your credit card companies and ask them to reduce your interest rate. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Cut back on what you spend. Don’t buy anything you don’t absolutely need. Mom, you may need to do your own nails. Dad, you may need to take a sack lunch to work. The kids may have to do without the latest video game. Do whatever it takes to cut back on your spending.
Use the money you save to pay off your debt. Begin with the credit card payment that carries the highest interest rate. Pay it off first, move to the next, and so on.
You may have to do a little extra work for a while. You might watch a neighbor’s child in the evening, do some sewing, or help someone with yard work on the weekends. A busy neighbor might be eager to pay someone to weed his garden or do handyman work. Find ways to make a little extra income. Apply your extra earnings to your debt.
Once you’ve accomplished your goal, you may choose to discontinue the use of credit cards, or you may choose to charge only what can be paid off at the end of each month.
My wife and I use a card that provides a 15-cent-per-gallon discount on gas and sends us rebate checks we use to buy groceries. We never pay interest charges. If you cannot discipline yourself to charge only what you can pay off each month, do yourself a favor. Cut up your cards and pay cash.
Taking Pride in Your Accomplishments
Once you’ve paid off your credit card debt, use that payment money to eliminate other debt, starting with the debt that carries the highest interest rate. If two debts are at the same rate, pay off the smaller one first. Every payment you eliminate brings a great sense of accomplishment.
When you have eliminated all debt except your mortgage, stay out of debt by purchasing only what you can pay for in cash. Make it a family rule. Christmas and birthday gifts may be smaller, vacations a little less lavish, but you’ll be able to sleep at night without worrying about how to pay for them.
Now begin to tackle your mortgage. Your budget should look considerably different now and you’ve probably discovered that many things you thought were important aren’t really needs. Determine how much you can pay on your mortgage each month. Contact your mortgage company and tell them you want to increase your monthly payment to pay off your loan early. You’ll feel a tremendous sense of relief when you finally pay off your home loan.
The Source of All Blessings
If you are deeply in debt, it’s likely you are you are not tithing. God told Israel in Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it” (New International Version). When we give a tithe we are giving back to God at least 10 percent of the income with which he has blessed us. If you are not tithing, begin with the percentage you are currently giving and plan to increase it by one or two percent a year until you reach your goal.
Make sure you involve your children. They need to learn to tithe their allowance and the income they receive from part-time jobs.
Teach your children to manage their money wisely. Teach them to live by a budget, to avoid debt, and to tithe.
You will make their lives—and yours—much easier.
Don Dilmore is a freelance writer in Montgomery, Texas.
Teach Them While They’re Young
If you’re looking for help as you model and teach financial responsibility to your children, you may want to look into these books:
I Want to Teach My Child About Money
by Kathie & Doug Rechkemmer
Find help, hints, and solid strategies for teaching your children safe and healthy ways to use money. From earning and saving to tithing and spending, I Want to Teach My Child About Money offers clear, concise information about the impact of money plus tips, lists, charts, questions, and practical, interactive suggestions for helping your child.
I Want to Talk with My Teen About Money Management
by Lisa Crayton
Here are hands-on resources for today’s busy parents. Sections included are:
• Money in Perspective
• Earning and Employment
• Spending and Serving Today
• Investing in Tomorrow
Find out more: www.standardpub.com