Money . . . It’s the grease that makes the world go round, yet it’s one of the least chosen table topics of choice. With the rising cost of living, the price of lettuce being tripled and a seemingly never-ending list of things to pay for, many are worrying about their financial future. So long as we continue to ignore the conversation, the small problems we let slip regularly will build up to substantial challenges. Talking about money is necessary if we want to turn our situations around.
So, to bite the bullet, we sat down with Rosie Kendall, CEO of Christians Against Poverty (CAP) in Australia. CAP is a charity that exists to equip Church churches with solutions to help people in financial distress by providing practical tools, services and skills to the public. Their services are free of charge and they function across all states in Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the USA, the United Kingdom and Canada.
“Money is a holistic issue,” Kendall said. “It intersects with our relationships, faith, values and wellbeing.” Unfortunately, for most of us, it’s not an area we are well-educated or disciplined in. But there is hope. We can move towards financial freedom by setting up a budget, creating boundaries, defining our values and having the hard conversations.
creating a budget
The concept of budgeting isn’t new. “Yet statistically speaking, the majority of people who [read] this don’t have one. Those with enough money to pay for the things they want often think they can go without. But when the unexpected happens, they don’t always have the buffer they need,” Kendall said. Others are uneducated about how or why to budget, think budgeting is limiting, are afraid of what they’ll find if they look at their finances, or simply lack the motivation to sit down and do it.
Often people will take the time to put together a spreadsheet or write out their budget but then will go out and start swiping their credit cards without thinking twice. This isn’t surprising when we live in a world that tells us we need certain things to be happy. We’re no longer programmed from a cultural perspective to wait for things. We have the means through credit cards or buy-now-pay-later companies to purchase something the minute we lay eyes on it. “We need a roof over our heads; we need to feed our families, and money is there for us to enjoy. But problems arise when we get in the habit of spending money we don’t have, or that isn’t ours,” Kendall said.
Having a budget allows us to decide where and how we spend our money. When we align our spending with our values (more on this later), we will make informed decisions rather than falling into impulse buying. In order for a budget to be effective, we must put systems in place. We can do this by looking at where our money needs to go, considering where we can increase income and determining what costs we can cut back on.
Have you ever seen something online or in the shops, immediately thought, “I must have it!”, then thought, “oh, but it’s so expensive” and then justified your reasons and bought it anyway (maybe regretting your decision later on)? Turns out we don’t always have as much control as we think. Kendall said setting up at least three gateposts can be a wise way to safeguard your spending. Some examples of gateposts include:
- Waiting two weeks before making a non-essential purchase. It’s amazing what time can do. In that time it’s very likely you’ll forget about it or decide you no longer want it.
- Have someone in your life to share your expenses with. The simple act of knowing that, at some point, you will have to share your purchases with others, might stop you from making the purchase altogether.
- Get rid of your credit cards. Not having easy access to money will limit your ability to buy things outside your means.
- Avoid buy-now-pay-later companies. If you don’t have the money for something, make it a rule that you don’t buy it until you do. Companies like Afterpay and ZipPay are making consumption more convenient but less enjoyable. “The joy that comes from saving for something you really want and have worked hard for is beautiful and wonderful. You get excited because you’re really proud and pleased with yourself. It’s an achievement. You miss out on that when you see something and buy it straight away,” said Kendall.
having the conversations
A lot of us grow up thinking that talking about money is like talking about politics, sex or religion. We’ve been discouraged from talking about it. But it is necessary if we want to turn our situations around.
Even if you’re not in financial distress, it is still essential to have someone to talk to openly and intentionally about money. That could be a partner, a friend or a financial advisor. As Kendall said, “How money was handled when we grew up is instrumental in how we think about it and manage it.”
Having someone with a different viewpoint who can ask us why we do certain things with our finances and challenge our normalities can be very helpful. Changing a mindset is not something you just decide, but over time with accountability and support, you can form new habits and beliefs.
For those experiencing financial distress, loneliness often ensues. Seeing people around you who have enough or more than enough can make you feel isolated or ashamed. Our instinct is to carry on and hope we can get out of a rut ourselves, but the best and most effective (and sometimes hardest) thing we can do is ask for help and admit when we don’t know how to get out of a situation.
aligning our values
Money is there for us to enjoy, but if we’re not intentional about it, it can easily steal our joy. When we follow the trends of what the world convinces us we need for our happiness, we will likely buy things we don’t care about or that don’t add value to our lives, leaving us feeling dissatisfied without knowing why. Research shows that the people who live the longest and are the most fulfilled are those who live with purpose. What we spend money on tells us a lot about what we hold dear. Whether it’s our family, material possessions, building community, generosity, our appearance, the list goes on. So, since we spend much of our lives working, it would be wise of us to think about why we’re here and what we care about and align those things with our spending.
How do we do that? Kendall suggested “don’t make it a money conversation to start with”. First, get a blank piece of paper and ask yourself: what do I value? Narrow it down to the top three things you want your life to reflect. This might be challenging and take you some time to figure out, but if you start there, the money conversation becomes much clearer and easier. Next, ask yourself the following questions: does my spending reflect my values? How/how not? What do I need to change in my budget so I’m living in alignment with my values?
It’s not just you, life is getting more expensive. More and more people in Australia are experiencing homelessness and financial stress than ever before. Our natural response in times like these is to hold our money and possessions close. “But the Bible teaches us a completely different
narrative . . . that God will provide for us and we don’t need to worry about tomorrow,” Kendall said. He calls us to live generously even when we don’t know where our money will come from or how things will pan out. Generosity will look different for all of us. For those who don’t have a lot, it might look like providing friendship and support to those struggling. For those who are more fortunate, this is the time to reach out to others, share our things, open our homes and offer meals. We won’t change the world immediately, but a few small acts of generosity can go a long way.
Korrena Bailie, consumer finance editor for Forbes Advisor in New York, says, “There are few things that can cause joy, shame, contentment, anxiety and stress the way money does.” We can all attest to stories or experiences where we’ve been stressed about our finances. But our circumstances can and will change for the better if we start to take small steps in the right direction. Knowing our values, creating a budget, setting boundaries and having the hard conversations are excellent places to start on your journey towards financial freedom.
This article was taken from the Signs of the Times podcast episode 176. Many thanks to Rosie Kendall for her time and expertise. To listen to the full episode, head to signsofthetimes.org.au/podcast
If you would like to be matched with a money mentor, become a money mentor or learn more about CAP and its services, head to capmoney.org
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Take The Next Step To Find The Beginner’s Guide to Financial Freedom: 12 Simple Steps by Zanita Fletcher