“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
Developing the habit of savings starts with recognizing that there is internal conflict within your own heart. On the one hand, a part of you knows to turn away from living outside of your means and going into debt.
On the other hand, part of you desires more, believes you need to make that impulse purchase, or finds greater satisfaction in fulfilling a short-term need.
“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don't they come from the evil desires at war within you?” (James 4:1)
This passage from James is intended to address quarrels between people. But this conflict stems from the “war within.”
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh craves what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are opposed to one another, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:16-17)
The foundation to saving instead of over-spending or going into debt, starts with turning from the fleshly desires.
The challenge is those fleshly desire are real. They are inescapable for everyone because they come from our fallen, sinful nature.
There may be variations and gradations, but all of us battle with this tension between the Spirit and the flesh. This is why we need Christ’s grace.
It’s also the path forward to laying a foundation.
Why do we spend when we can save?
There are three huge, general buckets of causes of poor spending habits :
- Habits of Ignorance
- Filling the Emptiness
- No Hope for the Future
Many people don’t know better. They haven’t been taught foundations to “personal finance” from their parents or school.
Perhaps they haven’t seen the need.
In any case, they proceed in life unaware that there is a more responsible way to proceed. If they were to be given guidance, they could avoid years of pain in the future.
It turns out research has shown that some people automatically “tune out” any discussion of personal financial management because they don’t see themselves as capable. They believe they aren’t mathematical, logical, or just smart enough to deal with personal finances.
As a result, they do nothing. Including the basics of budgeting and saving.
In this regard, there is both some education and, potentially, strong convicting that must happen to address this. But once they see the light, face this false thinking, they can move forward.
Filling the Emptiness
The second source is the instinct to purchase when there’s emptiness.
Perhaps you’ve experienced it: when you are unhappy, discouraged, or lonely — you buy clothes, shoes, electronics gear, whatever it is that you love and adore. This purchase may give you a temporary high, but it never fills the void.
This is challenging because the void within can feel so gaping at times, the pain for aching, that it can feel like there’s no self-control.
The reality is, there probably isn’t.
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 — emphasis added)
Self-control is part of a sequence of growing in Christ, and having the muscle to address this in something as seemingly trivial as an impulse buy matters.
Notice how what first comes is knowledge and upon knowledge we have self-control.
But the answer to stopping the spending to fill a void isn’t forcing constraint, beating oneself up, depriving oneself with sheer will-power.
While there is a measure of this, an awareness and self-discipline to contain our willful desires, that cannot be sufficient. The void for fulfillment, value, and acceptance can be, at times, just too great to allow on our strength alone.
This sound familiar?
The best way to save is to not rely on your own heart. Take the money out automatically.
Let's look taxes. Back to coin we take money out like clockwork to pay taxes to Caesar. Yet we are to give to God what belongs to him which includes our money.
One way is to just take our own desires out of the equation.
What is nice about this approach is that you don't need your own willpower. You just.
Why not tax ourselves by taking money regularly out of our account that goes to savings or ministry rather than to the government.
I set up to round up every purchase. What that means is if I spend $.75 on something the extra $.25 gets automatically taken out of my bank account.
It means if I spend money I set aside some money to myself with the purchase. Just as I set aside a little bit to pay taxes.
Here is the result for me saving this way and sticking it in the stock market. If you are saving for something in the short term I would skip the market and save everything in just a bank account.
The beauty of this is the money is taken out each time I spend. On the one hand, I want to be reducing what I spend. That is by far the best way to make sure you are saving. But if I do spend I tax myself just a little bit and automatically set it aside.
In this example over a six month period I saved an extra $688 about $21 extra dollars due to growth in the investments. Don't expect much extra from investing as I mentioned. I set it aside and invest just to see how it grows.
Don't let yourself make decisions on saving. Let system take small amounts out regularly to build you account.
Once you are comfortable doing this you can use other systems.