Assessing your heart, values, and spending
In part one of this series I introduced the topic of money and a Christian approach to personal finance. In part two I’ll talk about how to assess your heart, your values, and your spending. Before we can go any further or make any changes we need to see where you are at today. Be honest with your assessment. Lying to yourself or God won’t get you anywhere. Write down your answers if that helps. If you’re married or in a relationship, you might want to do this with your partner.
Assessing your heart
In the introduction I mentioned how our money is a gift, it is to be approached with caution, and it is one way we reflect God’s generous heart. In light of all that ask yourself the following questions.
- Have I told God thank you for all that I have?
- Am I content with what I’ve been given?
- Have I been generous with my God-given gifts?
- Do I tithe or donate to church and charities?
- Have I put my hope, trust, faith, or identity in my money? Does it give me an ultimate sense of joy or identity?
- Do I use my money to bless others?
- In what ways have I fallen short of God’s call in regards to my money?
- How could I be more generous, content, and thankful?
- In what ways have I been tempted to view or use money wrongly?
Assessing your priorities and goals
First, let’s start with your priorities in life. What matters to you the most? Create a top ten. Your list might include time with family, your church, your faith, dinners with friends, starting a side-hustle, or owning a home.
Next, write out your financial goals. Maybe you want to pay off debt, begin saving for retirement, get rid of a car loan, or buy a boat. Create another top ten goals you have when it comes to finances. You are probably reading this article for a reason – what it is? Maybe you just want to get things in order or stop the bleeding. Write all that down.
After the next assessment, consider how your spending reflects your priorities.
Assessing your spending
This assessment is key. Too often our spending does not reflect our priorities. We say we want to save for retirement, but then we eat out so often we don’t save at all. Or, we say we value simple time with family, but then we work 12 hours a day to afford the car in our driveway. I hear all the time (and have thought myself) that people just don’t have money to give to church or charities after all their expenses. But, if we took a closer look, I bet most of us are spending money in places that we could easily cut out.
There are a number of tools you can use to assess your spending. You could simply print out transaction records from your bank or credit card. Other helpful tools are websites and apps like Mint, YNAB, and PocketGuard. These apps break down your spending into categories and use different visuals to help you make sense of where your money is coming from and going to. I personally use Mint and find it easy to use.
You might be surprised by what you find. Maybe you didn’t realize that all those Starbucks runs really add up. Or, that going out to eat once a week costs more than you ever thought. Once you take a deep look at your spending (Warning: it might not be pleasant) go back to your assesments of your heart and values.
Does everything line up? Are you spending on your priorities? Does your spending accurately depict where you thought your heart was at? What does your spending say about you? How can your spending more accurately reflect your goals? How has/hasn’t your trust in Jesus been reflected in your spending?
Now that you have a better idea of your own views, attitudes, and spending habits, it’s time to start planning.