Cathy Madavan shares what she has learned about budgeting and finding your value in more than just what you earn
It can be a bit awkward, talking about our finances. And yet, wouldn’t it help if money management was a little more mainstream and less hidden? After all, most marriages that break down cite disagreement about money as a factor, and issues such as debt or the cost of living can cause untold stress to us all. I’ve always thought it is strange that we are taught algebra at school, but never taught how to run a budget, or what mortgage and pension options there are. In church, some pastors avoid talking about money, feeling awkward because it seems as if they are asking for their wages. And many Christians feel like there’s something vaguely distasteful or prying about talking about money – it’s a private issue, surely! And yet Jesus spoke more about money and possessions than about prayer, naming money as a key competitor to our devotion to God. How we live and give is profoundly spiritual, and learning to manage money can be both liberating and God-honouring.
1 Talk about it
The best thing we can do about anything that has the potential to become a source of guilt, shame, confusion or fear is to talk about it. It is possible to demystify, destigmatise and disempower our negative feelings or desires about money. After all, what we hide, we give power to, but what we bring out into the light, we can clarify and simplify. Talking, planning, agreeing and getting help where needed can empower us to manage money instead of it managing us.
2 Learn your limits
Some of us are savers, and some of us are spenders; some of us are natural hoarders, some of us are natural givers. But all of us need to know our limits. This is where a budget can be so helpful – and there are many online resources to help these days. My husband and I always advise those that come to us for advice that unless you are confident about your limits, don’t use a credit card. We do use a card for regular commitments, and we pay it off in full every month – in fact, our card gives us cash back – meaning we actually make money with it! But we don’t feel tempted to spend extra. The same is true for phone payments. It is still real money, and it’s so easy to forget that.
If you are a carer, you are just as significant as an investment banker.
3 Know your worth
The world might tell us that our worth is tied to wealth and material success, but you are so much more than your bank balance! As a person in ministry, I’ve had to wrestle with this, often earning far less than the hours I work would imply. At times I have confused my value with my income. It’s easy to compare salaries or to wonder why others earn more or less. But, while it is good to be honoured and the Bible does say that a workman is worth their pay (1 Timothy 5:18), our value is not just our hourly rate. If you are a carer, you are just as significant as an investment banker.
4 Think long term
We live in an instant culture that wants everything instantly. Buy now and pay later we are told. But wisdom suggests it is good to think more strategically. If possible, it is good to develop an emergency fund, a pension and a savings account that you automatically transfer something into each month – whatever you can afford. ‘Future you’ will look back and thank ‘present you’ if you put some great habits in place now!
5 Treasure what matters
In Luke 12, Jesus told the parable of a man who stored up his increasing wealth in bigger and bigger barns. But when he died, God asked him why hadn’t he stored up treasures in heaven instead. There is an antidote to our consumerist, materialist culture that tells us success means new cars, big houses and more stuff. We can choose to be generous to God and others. We can joyfully use our resources, our homes, our finances and all we have been blessed with to bless others. After all, what a joy it is to give back some of what we have been given!