SEVEN EMOTIONS THAT DERAIL YOUR FINANCES
I never dreamed on that sunny afternoon, as my husband and I took a fitness walk along the row of car dealerships that we would be returning home in a brand new, red convertible SAAB. The car just seemed to fit the day. After all, this was Southern California where sunshine and fancy cars abound. It is also a place where many judge you by what you drive. Of course, we already owned a prestigious little foreign convertible but it had become a real headache with its never ending, expensive repair bills.
As we negotiated with the SAAB salesman to purchase the car, we abandoned the idea of a trade-in because of the tremendous loss we would have to take on the market value. Besides, we had driven my husband’s car that day and the problem car was at home. We would just have to sell it on our own. After several hours of the salesman “checking with the manager in the back”, we drove off into the sunset basking in the exhilaration of purchasing a new toy. It only took a few days for us to face the sobering reality that we now had three cars to insure and maintain. Plus, the monthly note was so huge that it rivaled the note on a rental property investment. It took us much longer to sell the headache car than we had anticipated. We finally admitted that we had indeed made an emotional purchase. We had bought the SAAB out of frustration with the old car plus a desire to maintain a certain image.
I take no pleasure in sharing this story. In fact, I experienced a great deal of guilt over this transaction because I am a Certified Public Accountant and assumed by most people to be pretty frugal with my funds. My husband is also an astute financial manager. Even though we have never made a purchase that we could not afford, emotional transactions simply do not reflect good stewardship of God’s money that He entrusts to us.
After a year, we sold the car and invested in a single family home which ultimately yielded a handsome return. I wish I could say the SAAB was the last of our emotional spending; however, it was not. The problem with an emotional purchase is that it doesn’t eliminate the emotion that motivated it nor will it bring any lasting satisfaction. Isaiah the prophet asked, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy” (Isaiah 55:2 NIV)? Spending to pacify an emotion is like being given the anesthesia but never getting the required surgery; you get temporary relief, but the problem remains.
I did some honest soul searching about the car acquisition and concluded that many of my purchases emanated from my basic personality temperament. As a hard driving, goal oriented person, I found that my acquisitions were a way of saying, “I’ve made it.” I wanted to be recognized as a success without having to say a word. After all, I abhorred braggarts, egotists and anyone else who openly exhibited pride because of their possessions.
Having counseled singles, seniors, and soul mates–and having observed their spending habits-I have concluded that everyone must come to grips to with his emotional views of finances before he attempts to master the mechanics of money management. I can lecture until I’m blue in the face about the importance of having an emergency cash reserve, or contributing the maximum amount to the company’s matching retirement plan, or getting out of debt. Despite my admonitions, a single overriding emotion can cause anybody to abandon sound financial judgment. Let me share seven emotions that may cause you to spend in an unwise manner and some ways of dealing with them.
Stress: “You deserve a break today”, declares the popular McDonalds fast foods slogan. If you are constantly confronted by stressful situations, you do indeed need to find relief-but not through spending. My husband and I purchased a 32-foot cruiser boat with the hope of finding relief from our stressful schedules. The boat show was held at the marina, so we experienced right there on the spot what it would be like to chill out on our own boat. Just the thought of leisurely weekends cruising around Southern California’s harbors was enough to seal the deal. Well, it wasn’t long before the boat itself became a source of stress. Whoever said that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day that they purchase it and the day that they sell it was right! Enough said.
In my book, 30 Days to Taming Your Stress, I list 30 ways to address your stress including controlling your finances, setting boundaries, exercising, releasing unrealistic expectations, delegating, saying no, and a host of other actions.
Anger: Shopping may help you work off a little steam, however, if you peel your anger onion, at the core of it you may find that you are angry with yourself. Perhaps you tolerated someone’s bad behavior, failed to speak up, put yourself at risk, or a number of other regretful acts. Before you run to the mall, get in touch with why you are feeling the way you do and confront the people involved. If face-to-face is not possible, then write a letter expressing how you really feel about what has happened and what changes you desire. Ask God to give you His words and His wisdom so that you can be direct, honest and godly in your approach.
Boredom: Television and Internet shopping companies thrive off the boredom that drives buyers to indulge their fantasies. The best way to combat boredom is to invest time in meaningful diversions that move you toward your goals or that make life better for others. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a crafts or other class of interest at your local community college. They are usually low cost, short in duration, and are a great way to meet new people with common interests.
- Host or teach a class at home on a subject of interest to those in your circle of interaction.
- Volunteer with a church or other charity to visit nursing homes, hospitals, orphanages, or shelters. I used to get great satisfaction from just combing the hair of the elderly who never received any visitors. The staff will welcome your support and the patrons will never forget your act of kindness.
- Keep a supply of blank note cards. Send a word of encouragement to someone who needs it (your minister, a college student, a mom with small children, someone who is ill, etc.)
- Helping others is personally rewarding and usually requires little more than your time.
Now even if your expenditures seem to be minor, beware. Those frequent, discounted purchases can really add up. Anne, a receptionist, visits a local discount store when she is bored. She rationalizes that her spending is relatively harmless since the items cost so little. She does not wish to face the fact that her $5-$10 purchases can exceed a few hundred dollars during the course of a month. Further, spending is just a temporary cure for boredom. The thrill of the purchase will fade in record time and then you’ll need another fix. This vicious cycle is sure to keep you in a financial pit.
Depression: Recall the last thing that you purchased with the hope that it would cheer you up? Did it? If so, for how long? I know that I’m treading on sensitive ground here, but if you are depressed it maybe because you have become the center of your world; you have focused all of your attention on how things are affecting you. If you would dare to step out of the spotlight and shine it on someone else, you will find amazing results. See the list above for possible activities that may refocus your attention. Also, consider getting a psychological evaluation by a medical professional.
Insecurity: When you feel unsure of your inherent worth as an individual, you may find yourself buying things that will impress others of your value. One of my counselee’s, Lucy (not her real name), drives a pricey BMW, but cannot afford to go out for Sunday dinner even at an inexpensive restaurant. “I want a car that’s a good investment”, she lies to me and to herself. The truth is that her entire self worth is wrapped up in sporting that car around and being admired for owning it. It is her only asset besides her clothes.
If you happen to be a “Lucy”, ask the Holy Spirit to give you the courage to stop living a lie and to begin to spend at your affordability level. Value the intangible assets that you bring to the table such as a sense of humor, integrity, dependability, perseverance, and so forth. Don’t be like Haman, the insecure Persian official who needed the king’s horse, the king’s robe and association with a noble prince to feel honored (Esther 6: 7-9). Rather, adopt the mindset of the Proverbs 31 woman: “She perceives that her merchandise is good. . .” (Proverbs 31:18 NKJV). Here was a woman who was not dependant on outside validation; she knew inwardly that her merchandise (what she brought to the table) was good.
Frustration: Thwarted plans, unmet expectations or other unfulfilled desires can send you running for mall therapy-unless you have totally embraced the truth of Isaiah 14:27 (NIV): “For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” To be disappointed is human, but to insist on having something that God has vetoed is the ultimate rejection of His wisdom. Therefore, you must always remember that if God desires a certain situation to come to pass in your life, nobody could thwart it. In denying your wish, consider that He may be working out in you something of more eternal value. Release it to Him. Rest in the fact that Father knows best. Don’t try to pacify your disappointment with a shopping spree. In fact, during this vulnerable time, avoid the mall like the plague. It is far easier to avoid temptation than to resist it.
Happiness: All emotional spending is not spurred by negative circumstances. Sometimes, your can be so overjoyed by a situation that you want to celebrate by treating your family, friends, or others. This is especially true of those who receive a big bonus or a financial windfall. A recent television special on lottery winners showcased several people who had won millions of dollars but who had lost it all due to their uncontrolled emotional spending. One man had gotten so far out of control that he sold his future earnings of $10,000,000 for $2.5 million! I’m not discouraging generosity; however, if you know that you are prone to emotional spending, you would be wise to set aside a fixed amount for celebrations and stick to it. You may even have to put the rest of the money into the hands of a money manager or in an account that is not easily accessed in order to stay on track. You do not have to set a bad precedent by playing Santa for every positive event that happens in your life.
You can control your spending no matter what emotion is demanding to be addressed–be it stress, anger, boredom, depression, insecurity, frustration or happiness. A self-intervention will save the day. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” “What is the best way to deal with this particular emotion?” Next, focus on the proposed purchase and keep the questions coming: “Do I need it or just want it?” “Is it outside of my spending plan?” “Will it hinder or advance my financial objectives?” “Will it permanently satisfy this emotion?” Know that the Holy Spirit, your Strength, is standing by to help you make the right decisions. Don’t ignore Him.
So when is enough, enough? Do you find yourself unable to enjoy what you do have because your thoughts always seem to wander to what you don’t have? Contentment should be the goal of every person who desires to walk in financial freedom. In our “more, more, more” society, anyone who is content is viewed by the stressed-out masses as lazy and unambitious. It is interesting to note that various surveys show that people felt richer in the â€˜50′s they do now when we have bigger houses, IPODs, low-calorie frozen dinners, cable TV, the Internet, extra jobs and the works. Why is this so? Because we have too busy trying to obtain or maintain too much stuff!
But, let’s look at contentment as taught in the Bible. Paul taught that “. . .godliness with contentment is great gain”. (1 Timothy 6:6 (KJV)) We must understand that discontentment is a state of the mind in which one never quite feels satisfied with his present possessions. On the other hand, contentment is a state of the heart. A contented Christian says, “Lord, I thank you for every thing that I am blessed to have right now and I rest in your promise to give me the desires of my heart and to meet my every need according to your riches in glory. You see the financial goals that I have submitted to you. I receive your grace to do all that I am supposed to do and I leave the rest to you.”
To be content, then, does not mean to be complacent. A complacent person is satisfied with his plight and desires no more. A Christian who is content is satisfied that his material blessings are on a planned delivery schedule and at the appointed time will come into reality. We must understand that God has always worked on a set timetable. He sent His son Jesus to the earth “in the fullness of time”; He promises to exalt us in “due season”. Your financial blessing will come at the appointed time. You must stay surrendered to God’s sovereign schedule. Oh, what a relief it is to relax in the assurance that the blessing is for a set time. It is no wonder then that the apostle Paul exclaimed that godliness with contentment is great gain. One who has achieved this state of mind (and spiritual maturity!) has indeed gained the victory over anxiety and the gravitational pull of materialism.
Antidotes to Discontentment
Practice Gratitude: One of the key steps to slaying discontentment is to become extremely grateful for every thing. Take nothing for granted. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to remind yourself of every provision that God has made for you and your family that day. Did you have transportation? Did you have a choice of what outfit to wear today? Were you able to obtain the food that you wanted? Are you aware that the people in Haiti live off less than $2 per day?
Solidify Relationships: Another key factor in avoiding the pitfall of discontentment is to become more relationship focused and less “stuff” conscious. When we read the account of the Shunammite woman to whom Elisha wanted to express his appreciation for making a room addition to her home for him and his servant, we immediately sense her contentment:
He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” II Kings 4:12-13 (NIV)
Even though she was barren, she had not focused on what was missing in her life, but rather on what she did have-meaningful relationships. She was not concerned with climbing the social ladder; no need to speak to the king on her behalf, thank you. She had found contentment in her relationships. Many people will spend thousands of dollars to go to far away places and interact with strangers whom they will never see again rather than investing quality time in building meaningful relationships at home.
Our quest for more, more, more takes away time from the things that yield true riches-heartfelt fellowship and interactions with others.
Resist Covetousness: Proverbs 27:20 declares that “. . . the eyes of man are never satisfied.” This passage lets us know, then, that it is not our natural inclination to be content. Therefore, our spiritual eyes must be developed to the point that we can resist the desire to always want what we see. This requires conscious effort. Each day I am becoming more and more resistant to the magnet of discontentment. When my neighbor pulls out of his garage in my dream car, I do not feel a twinge of discontentment. I rejoice that my ten year-old auto is paid for, looks good, and works fine. As far as I am concerned, keeping up with the Jones’ is sheer insanity. Of course I love beautiful things. I visit model homes and get great decorating ideas. I implement the ones that are within the realm of good stewardship and refuse to spend a second bemoaning the fact that certain extravagancies (though impressive) would reflect poor stewardship when so many others are suffering financially. Such a mind-set could only be the work of the Holy Spirit.
During these tough economic times, it will behoove leaders and lay people to wage war against discontentment. Don’t be a victim of marketing campaigns designed to make you feel “less than” in one way or the other. We must learn “. . .the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:13 (NIV))/
Excerpted from Show Me the Money by Deborah Pegues
COPING DURING PERILOUS FINANCIAL TIMES
You are well aware of the financial woes that we are experiencing as a country. On the surface, you have every reason to become alarmed. However, as God’s children, we are called to have a different mindset. I was awakened recently with this message on surviving the crisis. For simplicity and retention, I will use the word C-O-P-E as an acronym to outline the basics of what we must do now.
Chill: This is the colloquial term used today meaning to relax, to cease worrying. God is saying to his children, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT). In other words, “chill out”. God is not pacing the floor in heaven trying to figure out how to avert a financial tsunami. He is writing history. Therefore, we have an awesome opportunity to show the world our faith by how we respond to an economic crisis. Our peace should be so evident that others will question its origin. Sadly, many Christian leaders and lay people have become so anxious that they are first in line for the anti-anxiety medications that are selling at an all time high. (This is not an indictment against those who genuinely need such meds due to chemical imbalances, etc.). It’s a slap in God’s face to be anxious when he has promised to meet our every need. Several times a day as negative financial reports are blasted over the airwaves, I remind myself-often out loud since faith comes by hearing-that God has never forsaken those in right standing with him. No need to panic, to pull money out of the bank and put it under the mattress, nor to accept a zillion part time jobs in anticipation of lack.
Obey:It is critical that we remain obedient in paying our tithes, and giving offerings, and helping those in need, i.e., giving alms. Proverbs 3:9 says to honor the Lord with our possessions and the first fruits of all our increase. Be careful not to dishonor God by putting him at the bottom of your financial priorities if your funds decrease; warn others likewise. Further, a crisis is not the time to become fearful or selfish when it comes to helping those in need. The widow of Zarephath, on the brink of starvation, moved beyond her fear during a severe economic downturn and sacrificed for the man of God. As a result, she and her son experienced an inexhaustible food supply until the crisis ended (see 1 Kings 17:8-16). Know that when you are obedient in these three levels of giving-tithes, offerings, and alms-you are insuring yourself against lack, much like insuring yourself against loss when you pay your car insurance.
Plan: When Jesus admonished us to “take therefore no thought for the morrow” (Matthew 6:34 KJV), he was cautioning against worry and anxiety; not wise planning. “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity. . .” (Proverbs 21:5 NLT). The following strategies are a must for financial survival:
- Establish an emergency cash reserve of at least one-month’s living expenses (three is even better). The average American cannot even access $1,000 without having to get a high-interest credit card advance or a personal loan from a friend or relative. Set a deadline for achieving this goal at all cost.
- Manage your credit as never before-especially credit card debt. Avoid paying bills late as a delinquency can trigger higher rates on the card, or have an immediate impact on car insurance rates, interest rates on other credit cards, etc.
- Payoff your credit cards. A simple strategy is to start with the debt that has the lowest balance. Why? It will free up cash sooner to apply to remaining debts. Also, you will feel a sense of accomplishment once a single debt has been totally eliminated, and you will have greater incentive to keep up the good work. Now, add an extra amount to the minimum monthly payment on the card with the lowest balance. Where do you find the “extra amount”? Try eating out less. Is that expensive latte really that good? And do you really need all of those extra telephone services? These savings alone yield at least an extra $50 per month. Must you always get new clothes for an upcoming event? Now, continue paying the minimum payment on all other debts until the smallest debt is paid off. When this debt is paid in full, take the minimum plus the extra payment that you have been paying and add the entire amount to the minimum payment on the next lowest debt #2. If you faithfully follow this strategy, you will turbo charge your way out of debt in remarkable time.
- If you work for a company, tighten up your act. Perform all duties with excellence; submit to your boss with a good attitude; learn processes beyond your area of responsibility, and be a team player. Don’t be a clock watcher; arrive a few minutes before regular start time and leave a few minutes later than the regular stopping time. Don’t steal from your employer by doing personal work on company time or taking home supplies; why sabotage your blessings? Make yourself indispensable, the last person to be considered for layoff. However, don’t operate in fear. Know that God has your back and no man can thwart his purpose for your life (Isaiah 14:27).
Expect God to work on your behalf. Do not focus your expectations on governmental or other solutions to the crisis. Rather, be reminded of the admonition in Psalms 62:5 (KJV): “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.” Our primary expectation must be of God and not of man. I have drawn an imaginary horizontal line in my mind which separates the “sense” realm from the “faith” realm; I am determined not to be moved by what I see or hear in the natural. The just live by faith! I learned in physics that no two forms of matter can occupy the same space at the same time. To me, this has profound spiritual application: it is impossible to dwell on negativity while focusing my thoughts on the promises of God. I challenge you to get excited about the miracles that God will work for you-especially if you have been (or have decided to be) obedient in your giving. My own experience bears this out. The current year should have been a trying time financially for my husband and me as his employer cut his workweek in half for almost nine months. Being in full time ministry, my income can be sporadic. However, God has allowed my books to enjoy record sales. I’m happy to report that every obligation has been met in a timely manner. We did not have to resort to credit card debt nor drastically adjust our life style. Further, we have maintained a level of cash reserves never previously attained when we both worked lucrative executive positions! To God be the glory.
God honors his word. You can COPE during these perilous financial times and continue to experience his peace. Receive this word and watch God show himself strong in your life.