Chances are, there have been a few times in your life that you’ve prayed the ATM prayer.
You know, that little prayer you quietly mumble before checking your balance. As if God is inside the ATM writing down a number based on how good the prayer was.
Nope, it doesn’t work that way.
Sure, there’s room for endless amounts of financial faith. After all, God is the great provider, and we should give thanks and live by faith.
But there’s also plenty of God-given power and permission right there in your own hands.
When it comes to money management, having an entirely “Jesus take the wheel” mentality puts the car in the ditch. Every time.
God gave us both the money to manage and the tools to do it well.
He wants us to be involved, practicing responsible stewardship with what He gives us. To that end, here are four basic questions you should be able to answer about your money—and resources to help you find the answers.
How Much Did You Spend Last Month?
The first time my wife and I tracked our spending, we were shocked at where our money was going.
I estimated that we had spent around $100 eating out that month. After running the numbers, we discovered it was $450. What a mess! We were spending more than four times what I thought.
We immediately got excited when we realized just how easy it would be to take a huge step in the right direction. We haven’t spent over $200/mo eating out since, and the savings is now over $15,000!
People tell me all the time that their money just disappears each month—that’s a dead giveaway that they aren’t tracking their spending.
The good news is that tracking your spending is easy, and doing so has huge returns. It’s much easier to make changes when you know where your money has been “disappearing” to.
So, how much did you spend last month and on what? Put each expense from last month into a spending category and add it up. Boom, there you have it!
What Are You Going to Spend Your Money on Next Month?
My one-year-old daughter sometimes puts a salad bowl on her head. It’s so big, it covers her entire face so she can’t see where she’s going. The joyful laughter always ends quickly when she runs into the wall.
She’ll learn. And don’t worry, she’s fine. I think.
Floating through the years wearing a financial blindfold works about as well as my daughter’s salad bowl. No wonder you keep bumping into things and getting hurt. It’s much easier to move in the right direction when you can see what’s ahead and plan accordingly.
Now that you know where your money has been going, I challenge you to take charge and plan what you will do with your money each month going forward.
You won’t believe how much better your finances will look and how much better you’ll feel after just a few months on a budget. Budgeting gets easier, more helpful and takes less time the more you do it.
How Much Debt Do You Have?
Becoming debt-free is like unlocking the super secret weapon in a video game. Suddenly, the game is a lot easier and more fun!
When you cross the debt-free threshold, you’ll be able to breath easier and shift your financial priorities to other things like saving for a house, giving more or investing more for retirement. (Or all three at once!)
It’s always amazing to me when I help someone organize their finances and they have no idea how much debt they have. That’s like ignoring the low fuel gauge on your car. No wonder your car hasn’t moved in months.
Don’t just poke around at your debt like it’s an annoying fly that won’t leave you alone. Treat your debt like an emergency and crush it!
Paying off your debt should be a top priority, and knowing how much you have is the first step.
What Is Your Net Worth?
Terms like “net worth” aren’t just for millionaires and old dudes.
Everyone has a net worth, and everyone should know what it is. You should track your net worth at least quarterly, whether it is positive or negative.
Tracking your net worth is the best way to visualize in what direction you are moving. Think of it as seeing where you stand in your financial big picture.
If your net worth is growing each month, you are heading in the right direction. If your net worth is stagnant or doing down, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at how to correct that.
Here’s how you figure out your net worth: Add up all your assets then subtract all of your debts. The number you see is your net worth. In other words, what you own – what you owe = your net worth.
If you found these questions difficult to answer, you are not alone. I challenge you to look up all the key information and answer these four questions before you go to bed tonight. I guarantee you’ll feel better about your finances as a result.
If the answers sting a little, just remember that taking action will produce better results. And you’ve done just that.
You are capable and qualified to manage the money God has given you. You don’t need permission from anyone else to start working toward being more financially responsible.
Approach the ATM with confidence!
Derek Olsen is author of the best selling book One Bed, One Bank Account. Derek and his wife Carrie co-host The Better Conversations Podcast. Download the free e-paper "4 & 1/2 Conversation Starters" and start having better conversations about money today. Follow Derek on Twitter and Facebook.