I ran into an old friend at the nail salon, and there we sat side by side soaking our colored gel nails in acetone. She was soaking off the colored gels, having decided to return to LCN gels, and I was preparing my nails to have Bastile My Heart color gels freshly applied. I sung praises of the change I made to color gels several months ago – less expensive and less time consuming for bi-weekly “fill-ins” than the LCN gels, while my friend found the color gels to be disappointing – less durable and prone to chipping, though acknowledged as I did the unending quest to save money. When I mentioned the additional expense of getting touch-up hair color to cover the gray in this season of life, my friend – without hesitation, confidently exclaimed “that’s a necessity!”
I had to agree on an emotional level, but my mind traveled back to what I had just read that morning in Crown Financial Ministries Money Map Steps to Financial Freedom materials about understanding the difference between a need, a want, and a desire.
Needs – these are the purchases necessary to provide basic requirements, such as food, clothing, a job, home, medical coverage, and others.
Wants – wants involve choices about the quality of goods to be used: dress clothes versus work clothes, steak versus hamburger, a new car verses a used car.
Desires – these are choices according to God’s plan that can be made only out of surplus funds after all other obligations have been met.
Okay, so needs are pretty straight forward. But that word “choices” in both wants and desires is falling suddenly on fresh ears. I’m not sure I make many actual choices when it comes to my finances – money comes in and money goes out … without ever really touching my hands. I have no real connection with money in my life – my paycheck is directly deposited into my checking account with a small amount directly deposited into a savings account. I pay nearly all my bills through online banking, my tithe is set up as auto giving through a regular weekly electronic funds transfer, even ministries I contribute to – sponsorship of two World Vision children, New Life Ministries, Proverbs 31 Ministries – all of my giving is accomplished through regularly scheduled billing to my debit card. I rarely write a check, and pretty much use cash (withdrawn from the ATM at work) only at the gas station because it is less per gallon than using a debit or credit card. I use my debit card for almost all day to day expenses – after all, you get a complete list of all your expenditures charged to the debit card through online banking … of course, I never really look at that.
Even Monopoly money seems more real. Do you remember sitting there with full view of your paper bills in front of you? Mine were neatly sorted and organized – the ones, fives, tens, twenties, the blue fifties, yellow hundreds, and oh that glorious bright gold $500 dollar bill (if you were lucky to have that kind of money), tucked under the edge of the board. The Monopoly board gave you a view of your total financial picture at a glance, not just your stash laid out in front of you, but even the potential financial pitfalls up ahead, like luxury tax or an opponent’s well developed properties with hotels that you were at risk of landing on. There were no LCN gels or hair color touch-ups to land on, no 30% off at Kohls – the only decisions were to buy or not to buy. When you landed on luxury tax, you paid – not online, but actually pulling the bills from your organized pile, watching the money pile deplete as you counted out the bills. The only income was income property, passing go, landing on free parking (oh, what bliss!) … it was a totally cash economy, and the only desire you had was to amass more wealth – more property, hotels, and more money, especially more than what everyone else had. Is it any wonder that I’m struggling to get control of my personal finances, that I’m spending more money than I earn? I am completely out of touch, offline with what’s coming and going online.
Any good therapist or coach would ask me “What have you tried so far to deal with the problem?” Well, let’s see … my sister made a visit out to counsel me about creating a budget and set me up on Quicken several years ago – too cumbersome, too much thinking, a real bore-fest all that detail … I googled (notice how Google has become a verb in this techno world of ours?) Crown Financial Ministries when I heard this was a Christian financial management program (hey, all things are possible through Him who gives me strength, right?) – I’ve got the Money Map book, CD’s, online financial tracking. But then that got a little tedious, so I went back to Google to look for other Christian financial programs and discovered Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover Workbook” – I like this guy, sense of humor, lots of workbook quizzes and exercises that made it fun … until I got to that detail part again of tracking expenses, figuring out fixed expenses, creating a budget – ooh, I don’t even like the sound of that word.
Dr. John Townsend wrote a great little book called Now What Do I Do? The Surprising Solution When Things Go Wrong – it is a 7-step approach to solving any problem you’re up against, and the first step is a surprising one … Feel What You Feel. Say what? I was all about avoiding that detail thing when I pulled the book from my shelf and was happy to have a refreshing start to getting control of my finances when I sat down to read. Townsend says before digging in to analyze your issue, allow yourself to feel your emotions about the problem in the moment. Feelings are a valuable source of information, emotions are a signal that tell us something is going on that we need to pay attention to. Feelings are a part of how God helps us look within ourselves – so sweet this Jesus of ours. “When you ignore your emotions, you deplete energy you need to solve your problem. Attempting to “unfeel” whatever you feel is a huge drain on your energy … God meant feelings to help us search, with himself and with one another, for truth in our innermost parts.”
Dr Townsend suggests spending 5 minutes a day alone thinking about your problem, being open to your emotions, and listing whatever feelings you notice. He says “This kind of simple focus is a message to your feelings: Its OK. I want to hear from you. You may be surprised by your feelings, and that’s all right. You are on a hunt for information.” I say Let the Hunt Begin!
My 5 minute feelings purge about spending more $ than I earn – UNFILTERED
Anxious, worried that I will blow through all my savings while I continue to overspend
Ashamed I have spent so much of the $ I pulled out of sale of the house already – want to hide financial picture from everyone
Helpless – don’t know where to begin getting control of finances (definitely willing to try this feelings thing)
Afraid I will have to move again this summer, that when I look at my finances honestly I will discover I can’t afford this rent
Resentful that I don’t get paid more in my job
Feeling like I’ve disappointed God, have not used what He’s given me responsibly – why would He give me more?
Convinced that I will make $ in the future through coaching, speaking, writing for God’s glory
Stubborn resistance about giving things up – I know cutting expenses will be painful
Afraid I’ll be judged by my sister, daughters, others for squandering money
Embarrassed I can’t fully answer the question “where did all the money go?”
Think about the last 5 things you did a google search for … were you looking for information, a how-to, opinions on the issue, maybe articles, even blog posts on the topic? Funny isn’t it that we don’t really consider the credibility of the search results … unless we don’t like what we read, we just arrow back and pick another result to check out. Trust me, I know, anybody can create a website, anybody can set up a blog, and in a flash become a searchable expert – there is no credit check, no background check, no reality check that deems you a credible or bogus source of information.
But there is One that we can turn to for direction, there is a source of His promises and truth that we can take up against any enemy, any problem, a Word we can rely on in our deepest fears and our darkest hours. You won’t find Him online, in a chat room, at an ATM, or by direct deposit – you must come to Him and lay out your feelings at the throne of grace … and that’s just the beginning.
Feel What You Feel – Will you take 5 minutes today to jot down your feelings about something you’re wrestling with? Will you take your search offline – out of the hands of Google and into the Hands that Hold with David’s cry? Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24.