Proverbs is a great book of the Bible to pull verses out of because it covers so much relatable content. It’s likely you know some of the classics like Proverbs 3:5 (trust in the Lord with all your heart); Proverbs 4:23 (guard your heart above all else); Proverbs 27:17 (iron sharpens iron); Proverbs 16:3 (commit your plans to the Lord); Proverbs 16:9 (man plans, God directs our steps); Proverbs 16:18 (pride goeth before the fall); Proverbs 13:24 (spare the rod); and basically the entirety of Proverbs 31 if you’re a woman.
There are a lot of popular examples because Proverbs is 31 chapters of wisdom found in non-rhyming couplets. For me, reading through Proverbs is a painful thing because too often I realize I am a fool, and if you’re familiar with Proverbs, that’s basically the most detestable thing imaginable. Especially because I’m kind of a big mouth (“those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” 13:3).
Another trap I frequently fall into: laziness.
“Hard working farmers have more than enough food; daydreamers are nothing more than stupid fools.” Proverbs 12:11
“Hard work pays off; mere talk puts no bread on the table.” Proverbs 14:23
Woof. I like to imagine I have two speeds: sloth and overdrive. It’s rare I find a compromise in-between. I’m either working so hard I’m a flurry of nerves and action or I’m comatose on my couch watching Netflix.
While I often think about laziness in terms of my productivity, recently I’ve been looking at it as a measure of dedication. Laziness isn’t simply something that stops us from completing a project on time or going to the gym; it can also stop us from reaching the less tangible goals.
For about the last decade, I’ve been trying to get my finances in order. In that time, I racked up more than $20,000 in credit card debt because that’s clearly the solution to become more financially stable. I’d set dates where I would no longer use my credit cards and resolve to do better this time around. But I couldn’t do it.
Looking back, it’s clearly an example of laziness.
I knew what I had to do to get better – stop indulging myself. Stop thinking I can live like everyone else. Stop thinking I need something now. Accept my limitations and live within my means. It’s so obvious and so hard.
I would have moments of clarity and pay off cards, only to see the charges begin to pile up a month later. When I first started using credit cards, I bragged about how amazing it was to get whatever I want and only have to pay $25/month. I clearly didn’t understand interest.
The issue was I was sure of future fortunes after I graduated college that it seemed like I was just one step away from a good income to help me balance out. Even as I struggled post-graduation, I believed my windfall would come. I was still waiting after six years.
Last year broke me. I reached a point where I recognized I couldn’t do this on my own and I had to change if I wanted to get better, while that reached into a lot of different areas, my finances were a big piece.
When 2018 began, I wasn’t excited about my resolutions, but resigned to what needed to be done. No longer was I trying to do better on my own, I had Jesus on my side to guide me toward proper decision making skills.
“Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4
I went from being so lazy about my finances to so diligent. This year, I haven’t used a credit card to purchase something I couldn’t actually afford. I set boundaries and stuck to them and the state of my finances is a testament to this dedication.
Here’s the thing: you can’t get caught up on the word prosper and assume it means your windfall. I’ve made better financial decisions this year, but I’m still sweating between paychecks. But I find so much joy in this struggle. I’m prospering because I’m not making things worse for the first time in nearly 10 years.
None of this is to say I’m perfect. When I moved, I bought a $60 comforter I didn’t need and every time I look at it, I wish I had that $60. Funny enough, I don’t remember anything I told myself no about this year. Nothing lingers as a regret in the back of my mind because I didn’t get it.
Money is something a lot of us struggle with in our own way. The Bible specifically mentions how we can’t serve God and money (Luke 16:3-5) because our Heavenly Father understands the hardships we face. It’s what drives the world and having too much or too little affects so many areas of our lives.
I’m not an expert, but these are the steps that helped me move from lazy spender to dedicated saver:
1. Start with God
For so long I depended only on my strength to try and be better with my money. Even when I’d cry out to God, exhausted with my own efforts and at the end of my rope, nothing changed. In those moments, I wasn’t really ready to make the change.
It wasn’t until I fully surrendered everything and said ‘God, I need you’ that it became real in my life. It takes that release and resignation to let God’s will in and watch yours slink to the background.
If you aren’t willing to make God the focus, you will keep struggling with money.
There have been so many moments in the past few years where my budgeting didn’t make sense. I was sure I knew how much money I had and then suddenly I was wrong and I had enough. I owe these miracles to tithing.
Even though I’ve been broke for years, I refused to stop giving back a portion to God because I learned the importance of it from my mother. Her testimony of abundance and blessings was enough for me to desire this in my own life.
One time I met with a banker and he saw my budget and how much I tithed and recommended I take care of myself first. This is an understandable response from someone who doesn’t believe or know the miracles God can do.
If you don’t tithe, or tithe regular amounts, I understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes I think about how much more I might have if I held onto the money. Then I realize something important: if I believe I need my money more than God can bless it, I’m immediately limiting God’s power to my own understanding.
So just tithe and see what God will do.
3. Set goals
Your goals can be actual spending limits or just a general spending plan. I set a few related to how much money I wanted in my bank account at the end of each pay period and about how I wanted to spend my money. Specifically, I decided this year I wouldn’t buy something if I couldn’t justify it as a need. I gave myself some grace periods where I allowed myself to spend a little more recklessly, but on the whole I stuck to this goal.
Having guidelines make it easier to monitor your progress and actually see the difference, which comes to step four.
4. Track everything
I have a Google Sheet that documents all of my finances – my budget, income, goals, and spending. Here I keep track of everything year over year to celebrate how I’m getting better. It also helps me adjust my goals or add new ones because I can see what’s working and what isn’t.
My favorite thing is tracking my spending in categories: Sephora, Shopping, Amazon, Eating Out, Fast Food, Gas, Groceries, etc. I picked my biggest areas of expense to compare from last year.
You might not be obsessed with seeing everything like me, but I encourage you to find some way to actually see how and where you’re spending your money. Last year, when I set up my spreadsheet, the full extent of my spending became clear and I couldn’t avoid it any longer.
If nothing else, surrender to God and begin tithing regularly and you will see your situation turn around. I believe that wholeheartedly because I’ve experienced the miracle first hand. God will do amazing things with your obedience that you won’t understand, but you will enjoy. Let Him bless you and your finances.