Spending is a habit. Does money burn a hole in your pocket? Does buyer’s remorse set in after you have spent your money? If this sounds familiar, how can you manage your spending so you can buy the things you need now and also save for the things you need in the future.
In order to change spending habits, people must first understand how habits are shaped and changed. In essence, they must identify spending leaks that give immediate satisfaction but do not help reach financial goals. Then, substitute desirable spending behavior that may not be immediately gratifying but will allow financial goals to be reached.
How to Change the Habit
Luke 16:11 says, “Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” People need to learn to handle the smallest thing God has put under their authority—their money. Larry Burkett believes that if the following guidelines are followed it will help control spending.
Establish self-discipline. Put all spending under God’s control. In so doing, individuals become managers of God’s finances and all spending should then be from the vantage point of whether He would be pleased with the purchase. With God’s guidance, any bad habit can be broken. People need to learn to recognize the drive that places them in a spending situation; then, when they shop, they can avoid spending pitfalls by having a purpose for the shopping, a time limit, and a written plan. They need to make a list before they go shopping and stick to it. In addition, they should limit the number of trips to the store or mall and never shop when hungry or depressed.
How far money goes usually depends on how much people want something. 3 As such, they need to be in control of the money, under God’s direction, instead of having the money control them. 4 Once spending has been brought under control, there should be a determination of how much should be spent each month in every area of an implemented budget. Since the basic idea behind budgeting is to save money for known and unknown expenses, there must be a commitment to stick to the budget. Larry believes that if people are having difficulty with income equaling outgo, they must cut some of their outgo. As such, they need to look at their budgets realistically and see where to start trimming. A budget is a money plan. With it, people can organize and control their financial resources, set and realize goals, and decide in advance how money will work for the good of the family. Therefore, because every purchase should be considered in light of the established budget, buying any non-budgeted items on impulse must be avoided, especially if the non-budgeted item needs to be purchased with a credit card.
People need to be accountable to others for a specified period of time for everything they spend. Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 says, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” If there is accountability, people will be more cautious in their spending habits—more of a look now, buy later attitude. So, shop around before buying, and learn to say no. Keep a record of spending and purchases, and share this record with your accountability partner.
Establish a want-to-buy list. Whenever people feel they need to buy something that is not budgeted, they should put it on the list; then, wait seven days and find two additional prices for the item. This procedure ensures they are getting a good buy. If they still want the item after a week has passed, they will have thought about it and probably will get a better price on the purchase. This procedure eliminates impulsive shopping. However, they still should not charge it. Finally, people should have only one item on the list at a time. If they find new “wants” during the week, they will have to decide between the two.
A good way to reduce debt is to develop discipline in spending habits. That may include taking away any security that might be used in case of emergencies, i.e. credit cards or other avenues of borrowing. By committing not to go further into debt, people begin to reverse the process that produced the debt. Larry often recommends cutting up the credit cards and not taking out any bank or family loans. Then, a balanced budget can be developed that will control spending and set the parameters of their financial means.
Larry Burkett, Counselor Self-Study Course, vol. 2, Christian Financial Concepts, 1999, p. A-4.
Larry Burkett, Counselor Self-Study Course, vol. 2, Christian Financial Concepts, 1999, p. A-5.