Keeping Our Perspective in a Tough Economy
It seems that everywhere turn these days its gloom and doom. The press and TV pundits all have their reasons: The Fed raised or lowered the discount rate too much; China is charging more for its labor; oil is well over $120/barrel; or the mortgage crisis is the cause. Frankly, I can’t pinpoint one reason why the economy is in a slump. There are simply too many external forces that impact and drive it. But, no doubt -- things feel pretty scary right now. The real question is: As Christians who are designed to be in (but not of) the world, how should we respond?
My first suggestion is simply to remain calm. Good times come and good times go. Economies are cyclical. Even this current crisis is nothing new. In the 1930’s American’s thought the economy would never rebound — it did. In the 1970’s we thought there would always be long gas lines—they went away and prices fell. In the early 1980’s mortgage rates topped at well over 12% -- later they fell to less than 6%. It’s important to remember that usually the only people who get rich by convincing us that the sky is falling are the helmet salesmen!
But with all of that said, I believe that there are some practical things we can do to insulate us from some of the financial pain we might otherwise experience. When a storm is brewing it makes sense to get back to the basics. Vince Lomardi, the legendary Green Bay Packer coach who led that team to so many championships, used to begin the season by pulling a football out of the duffle bag and walking in front of his team. Then he would hold the ball up in front of those grizzled pros and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” That was his way of reminding the team that they had to focus on the basics—the fundamentals. It’s the same for us. So, let’s review some of the fundamentals.
1. Pay off your short-term, high-interest debt—fast! Credit cards and car loans are never fun—but they can spell disaster when you lose your job. This is the time to cut back on the restaurant meals, movies, $5 cups of coffee, and resort vacations. This is the time to get all the over-time work and second jobs you can find. Cut costs and make extra money—and quickly reduce the debt. One day you may be VERY glad you did.
2. Get a raise in thirty days. Do a thirty-day spending journal where you list literally every dime you spend—on everything you buy. Then, at the end of those thirty days take a yellow highlighter and mark everything you bought that you didn’t have to buy. That’s how much of a raise you can give yourself starting the next month. You may be stunned at how much is being wasted.
3. Defer gratification. This is when we start saying “no” to ourselves. If we don’t need it—we don’t buy it. By the way, this can be an invaluable lesson for the kids.
4. Stop “drugging yourself.” Many Christians who would be critical of others who become drunk or drug dependant think nothing of their own drug of choice. When life’s pressures close in and the bills start to stack up, they head to the mall with their credit cards to anesthetize their own pain. As Christians we would do well to remember Who called us. In Matthew, Jesus told us not to store up treasures in this world where they come and go so quickly. Later, in I Timothy 6, Paul warns Christians not to trust in their financial wealth that is so easily lost. Instead, as Kingdom citizens, we know that our wealth is on the other side. Joy is based in finding contentment in the things God gives us; and being free of the unending lust for more and more stuff.
Steve Diggs presents the No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar at churches and other venues nationwide. Visit Steve on the Web at www.stevediggs.com or call 615-834-3063. The author of several books, today Steve serves as a minister for the Antioch Church of Christ in Nashville. For 25 years he was President of the Franklin Group, Inc. Steve and Bonnie have four children whom they have home schooled. The family lives in Brentwood, Tennessee.