Background Scripture: Proverbs 31:13-21
Quotes of the Week:
Never spend your money before you have earned it. Thomas Jefferson
In the last couple of lessons, we have started a series on finances. The first lesson was about earning money honestly and the last was about saving money diligently. This lesson ties into both of them in some manner, as we begin discussing wisely spending money. To begin with, if you aren't earning money, spending money would be unwise. A lesson that is learned by many people is the penalty of an overdraft. Even some very financially responsible people that I know today have spoken of issues that they had in the past in making a small purchase, only to find that they had insufficient funds and paid a hefty overdraft fee on top. A small purchase (less than 2 dollars) ended up costing more like $37 after bank fees were added. I'm sure you or those you know have experienced similar situations. For many people, only using cash would be much safer. If you don't have it, you can't spend it. How we spend our money also has some bearing on how much we can save. Many people will come up with a plan for saving money, but they often find that they spend so much that there is nothing left to save.
You may have heard about some people that have million dollar tastes, but they only have a shoestring budget. There are wide ranges of restaurants and associated costs for a meal. A nice expensive steakhouse may sound good, but going to the grocery store would be much wiser. There are even wide variances between grocery stores, so you must be wise as to where you shop. There are different types of department stores that are more amenable to different budgets. There are different models of cars that are more affordable than others. Obviously, you need to have some income in order to spend anything. And, you should also put some thought into how you spend your money.
Many people develop budgets to help them control their money in a more efficient manner. Often, when young adults are starting out, they think about how much they will pay for a vehicle, a residence, utilities, entertainment, food and the like. However, most every person that starts making a budget ends up earmarking nearly every dollar for something. What happens when a new transmission is needed in your car? What happens when the furnace or air conditioner goes out? What happens when medical bills pile up? A big part of setting a budget is being able to understand what you can and can't afford and then being willing to live within those constraints. It's a difficult lesson to learn and if it isn't learned early in life, it can cause many more problems in the future.
We read that she selects wool and flax. In this we learn how important it is to select what you need. These would be essentials to a family and by selecting them implies that this wife is careful about what she selects and where she gets it. When we think of how we spend money today, we need to understand that we need to be selective and ensure we get the essentials.
We read about this wife is like a merchant ship and wise in dealings. Similarly, we can also see how careful we need to be in spending our money. When you need to have work done in your home, it is always a good idea to get two or three estimates, so that you can understand if you are getting a good deal. Unfortunately, some people will try and get as much out of a consumer as possible, so as to increase their own profit margin. Be wise in your purchases and when you have work done, so that you are paying a fair price.
While some of this may seem to be more about earning money and working vigorously, we need to remember that in many cultures, doing work in one's home is the way that one made the money for their household and was also key to how much they could spend (or barter). We see that profitable trading is desired, so that you get what you should get out of a deal. When you are buying or selling a car, you are wise to understand the value of the vehicle, so that you do not pay a price that is much too large. If you don't do your 'homework', you can end up paying a lot more for the same car. Note that there should be a fair price as well, as those who are selling cars also need to support themselves and their families. Ensure that you are wise when you are making purchases, both small and large.
Certainly, wisdom in purchasing does not always mean finding the best price. For example, in the age where gas prices fluctuate wildly, some people will seek out the cheapest gas and then drive way out of their way to purchase it. There are other times when you can find something a few cents cheaper in other stores, but it does not always mean that you should shop there. Many stores will reduce prices on some things to get people into the store so that they can get them to spend more on other things. When I first started work, there was an older gentleman that was very frugal. He wouldn't buy a washing machine or dryer for his home, and he would drive halfway across St Louis to find the cheapest coin laundry.
Spending wisdom involves taking in all of the factors, such as cost, quality and other things that are important to you. When we are able to keep our spending in line, we are also able to help others in need. When we think of those who are spending the majority of their income to pay down debt from the past, they are much less likely to be able to help others in need.
Perhaps the most telling thing would be if you sat down and wrote out a budget of what you think you spend and then monitor your spending for a couple of months. Are you sticking to what you had planned or are you more likely to buy things that you had never thought of previously? Certainly, we all like to splurge at times, but if this is an obsession in your life, do you understand that you have a problem?
Take the time to understand what money you have coming in and how it is being spent. Ensure that you are living within your means. If there are problem areas, do what you need to correct them as soon as you can, so that you can live without a dark financial cloud over your head, which can impact your relationships, your job and your overall outlook on life. Remember that it is God who gives us the abilities to work and earn a living, and we need to be wise the resources that He has given us. It is all a part of allowing His leadership in different parts of our lives.