My money mantra is simple: money management is lifestyle management. Money is inanimate; nobody can manage it. Think about it. You use money to implement decisions; don’t you? You decide to buy a car, a house, a toy. You use money only after your conscious or unconscious decision be-attitudes.
How do you choose to buy? Do you look at you, your condition, and then select a path? Surely, it is your call; you elect when to spend, how you will spend, and how much to spend. Money is merely the means, the bridge between you and the merchant.
That’s why you must focus on managing how you choose. So, how do you look at lifestyle alternatives? The keys are your ABCs: your attitude, behavior, and choices. Your attitude is your beliefs, your worldview. It leads to your behavior, and your choices.
Everything starts with the attitude. If you understand specific attitudes that lead to poor spending decisions, and you decide to be aware of them before and while you spend, you will notice that you control your behavior, and you will handle your spending more effectively. In the popular jargon, you will manage money well.
Here are ten attitudes that will help you develop the right approach to spending, and guide you out of debt, especially, consumer debt, and enable you to remain debt free.
1. Be Accountable
Accepting that you need encouragement, and the periodic nudge to follow sound lifestyle choices, is a healthy attitude. Ask a trusted friend of the same sex to hold you accountable for good stewardship. Define the role precisely. That person needs merely to ask how you are doing. He or she does not have to know details of your finances, unless you choose.
2. Be Aware
Do you know your spending pattern? Do you know when or why you spend sanely, excessively, irrationally, impulsively? For three months, track your spending and record the process you follow before spending, and emotions after. Note areas where your spending seems uncontrolled. Be aware of these vulnerable areas, and develop strategies to overcome them–this will allow you to plug these leaks.
3. Be Contrary
Don’t aim to maintain your neighbor’s high living standard. Probably, she financed her lifestyle with debt. Just when you catch up, she re-finances! Accept where you are, and what you have, and grow from there. It is fine to be contrary; mostly, it is less costly than following the crowd!
4. Be Creative
Use your creativity, your talents, to give gifts, especially to family members at birthday, Christmas, and other celebrations. In addition, consider donating to charity or needy folks, or groups, money you would spend normally on these gifts.
5. Be Discerning
Learn to recognize and deal with conflicts of interest that exist when someone claims to be an adviser, but is a salesperson–insurance agent, mortgage broker, bank representative, non-independent financial adviser. Only you should benefit from advice received from an adviser.
Always read the fine print. I read once that the large print gives, but the fine print takes away!
6. Be Determined
I love Daniel’s determination that we see in the Old Testament book of Daniel 1:8-9. When required to eat and drink from the king’s table, Daniel resolved not to defile himself; God showed him favor, and Daniel did not eat that food. Similarly, each of us must determine we will lead a debt-free life, and allow God to work in and through us.
7. Be Faithful
Debt causes major emotional trauma in the home. Don’t put your household at risk by taking on debt. Understand debt’s effects on your family, and be faithful to the trust your family places in you to be a good steward.
8. Be Patient
Don’t spend impulsively. When the urge comes, seek God’s direction. Pray, wait up to one week and answer this question: Is this a fleeting want, or a longer-term need?
Save to buy all items. For a home, save a deposit that gives an affordable mortgage.
9. Be Thankful
Set your expenses below today’s income for a specific period. Ask God to show you how to deliver to His Kingdom excess income you get during that time.
10. Be Thrifty
Shop with a list always; comparison shop. Use coupons, but don’t allow them to decide your spending. When it’s feasible, shop in sales, but again, don’t allow the sale to drive your spending.
Decide never to buy when salespeople pressure you. Walk away, if you stay, you will spend more than needed. Remember, you do not save in a sale; you spend less than the listed price.
Use these attitudes consistently for 30 days and you will notice a major change in how you spend, why you spend, when you spend, and how much you spend. As well, you will be convinced that sticking with them is the way to control spending!