LET ME begin this article with a confession. I have problems, and at times serious problems, managing my personal financial affairs and don't we all? So if you are in trouble financially, please do not feel that this writing is to impose upon you a burden of guilt for your past operations, or to circumscribe you with harsh bookkeeping rituals for the future. Be it far from that purpose! In truth, it is presented to point out briefly a few guidelines that, if followed, could free you from some of your financial anxieties so that you might pursue your divine commission with ease.
Ministers for the most part are good financiers, but it is so easy to become involved in the business of your calling, that you neglect giving the proper attention to your personal finances. Be cause of the Adventist minister's complete dedication, the program of the church comes first, and rightfully so, but it should not be at the expense of home and family. This ye ought to do and not leave the other undone.
I have known ministers who could be termed financial giants in church management, who did a superb job in conducting the affairs of the church, but allowed home and personal finance to hang at loose ends and eventually had to confess lamentably, "They made me keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept."
I know we have great faith in the promise, "But my God shall supply all your need." In view of our established confidence in the Lord, we could easily decide not to take an anxious thought about tomorrow. Please stop and ponder this thought for a moment. The Lord may be blessing you today so that you might prudently prepare for the needs of tomorrow.
In giving thought to our personal finances, there is one thing that we should be sure of, and that is that we are getting everything from our income dollar that it will afford. Review your financial program and see whether there are any spending leaks that you have not detected. In these days of inflationary spending, money can inadvertently leak through your hands like water from a constantly dripping faucet. A faucet that drips only one drop per second will run off two hundred gallons of water in one month. And the spend ing process that dribbles away a penny here and a penny there will run off substantial sums of money over the period of a year.
How do you plug up the leaks? I would like to make the following suggestions:
Control Your Spending. Diligently strive to keep expenses well within the income. We are told, "Many, very many, have not so educated themselves that they can keep their expenditures within the limit of their income. They do not learn to adapt themselves to circumstances, and they borrow and borrow again and again and become over whelmed in debt, and consequently be come discouraged and disheartened. . . . We are pilgrims and strangers on earth. Let us not spend our means in gratifying desires that God would have us re press. Let us fitly represent our faith by restricting our wants." —The Adventist Home, pp. 374, 375.
Study carefully all of your expenditures and make a clear demarcation be tween necessities and desires. Necessities must be provided for first. Some of our desires or wants may be valid, but before you buy, ask yourself the question, "Can I afford it?" If you can, buy it. If not, learn to wait.
Be Your Own Number-One Creditor. Be in debt to yourself for a certain amount each month. Pay yourself until you have saved an amount equal to at least your income for one month, preferably three months.
Note this: "Every week you should lay by in some secure place five or ten dollars not to be used up unless in case of sickness. . . . With wise management you can save something after paying your debts." —Ibid., p. 396.
Try this: Take an empty peanut-butter jar or small bank and put it in a convenient place. Each time you come home, deposit all of the pennies you have into it. See what happens over a period of three months. Later you may wish to try nickels, dimes, or maybe quarters.
Be Careful in Purchasing Food. Re member, the supermarket sales slip is one of the trickiest items to keep under control. (1) Never shop for groceries without a list. (2) Never shop in a supermarket while you are hungry. (3) Purchase food that will enable you to furnish a wholesome menu for your family and never be swayed by high-powered television commercials.
Use Your Credit Wisely. There are some advantages to a wise use of credit. Properly managed credit can stretch your dollar and help your family get far more out of life. It can help you realize more of your objectives and goals. Occasionally it is possible to buy something that you really need on sale when the sale price plus interest charges is still significantly below the original cost. For a bigger saving, borrow the money from your bank and pay cash for the purchase. Bank interest is much lower than company financing. Never let an auto dealer finance your car. Borrowing the money from the bank and paying cash, you can save from two to three hundred dollars on the purchase. Shop for good credit terms with the same diligence that you use in shopping for merchandise. If you buy an item on credit, be sure to check on the cost of financing. You can lose many a dollar in excess carrying charges.
Credit Cards. Credit cards are useful and convenient, but very dangerous be cause they encourage compulsive buying. A shopper laden with parcels said to her friend, "I like credit cards; they go so much further than money." She is right, but there is a day of reckoning. There is an old saying that credit is like fire—it is easy to start and very useful, but it can be extremely dangerous if you are careless with it. Using a credit card can become an insidious disease. Always think before you buy! Steer clear of revolving credit. In this kind of credit buying, the charges are high and very difficult to figure out.
Examine Your Financial Condition Regularly. Let's try something that might be interesting to you. Let's see what your net worth is. Your net worth may be defined as the difference be tween what you own and what you owe. It can be figured in three simple steps.
Step Number One. Determine your assets. Your assets will include the fol lowing: Make a list of all checking ac counts, savings accounts, real estate, investments, personal property, and any other assets. Now summarize. Add the list, and you have your total assets. Surprised? You probably have more as sets than you thought you had.
Step Number Two. Determine your liabilities. List all of your liabilities, which include mortgages, loans, or borrowed money, charge accounts, amount due on credit cards, et cetera. Now summarize your liabilities.
Step Number Three. Determine your net worth. Take your total assets and subtract from this your total liabilities. The result is your net worth. Keep your net worth constantly increasing. Month by month, strive to bring those liabilities down, and the net worth will in crease. The norm is a two-to-one ratio— that is, the assets should be twice the amount of the liabilities for the average family. If your liabilities are more than your assets, then you are in trouble. Eliminate some of your debt as soon as possible.
It would be impossible to mention in one article all of the points that may be helpful, but I hope that these will cause you always to be on guard when you are disbursing your hard-earned funds.
The above suggestions have been made with the understanding that you are already committed to the program of tithe and offerings. The Lord comes first in all of our transactions, because He is owner of both the possessor and the possessions.