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I'm in my early twenties and finances are a topic of stress in my life and among my peers. One of my friends, who is about my age, just paid off his mortgage. How is that even possible? Others I know rely solely on credit cards and are in thousands of dollars of debt. I feel like I'm stuck between two ideologies – people who only spend their money on sensible things (and maybe have no fun) and people who spend it frivolously. What does the Bible say I'm supposed to do? What should I be focusing on?
Dear Stuck Millennial,
You have outlined a very relevant "tension" for people your age - some are doing extremely well with their finances. Others are still financially illiterate. But the fact that you have taken the time to ask this question is a good sign for your financial future. I have a great story for you and some biblical advice.
Last week I talked with a young man, a Millennial such as yourself, who related how he and his wife had already paid off their house. As I explored more of his story, I learned that he has been married fewer than six years, has an emergency savings account, regularly invests for the future, and has completely paid off his house. And the kicker... they accomplished all of this on a modest income. He earns about $49,000/year and she makes about $7,000/year in a side business.
He explained that when they got married, they decided to live like they were poor. They got on the same page about their financial goals, budget, and spending habits, and worked together to reach their goals. He said it was pretty simple - really, "just a mindset change".
This principle - to "live like you're poor" - is the key to questions you're asking. I'll outline spiritual truths and practical steps to help you get there.
Having the Right Mindset
Living below our means is a mindset totally contrary to what the world promotes. It doesn't come naturally because our sinful selves want to keep up with everybody else around us. But, it is possible!
Paul said, ...I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Pursuing contentment means pursuing God's will for your life. So when you're making your budget, concern yourself less with following a certain guideline or budgeting to "Keep Up with the Joneses" (they're probably in debt anyway).
Instead, focus your time, energy, and money on God's Kingdom and your budget will fall into place. Now, it will take a faithful heart and disciplined hands to do this, but when your priorities are in order, it makes it much easier. Crown's founder, Larry Burkett, once said, "money is greatest outward expression of our inner spiritual condition." Keep that in mind with each purchase you make.
If we choose to obey what Jesus taught in Matthew 6:33, ...seek first the kingdom of God... then we consciously purchase only those things that provide for our needs and strengthen us physically, mentally, and spiritually for our mission. Does that mean we can't have fun? Absolutely not! It means we avoid the stress of a debt-laden lifestyle as we attempt to live God's way.