1. The problem defined
Without getting too close-up-and-personal, many would confess that part of the financial problems their families have are connected to the living-on-two-salaries phenomenon that often has us living beyond our means.
When our son, now a retired firefighter, married the schoolteacher love of his life my wife and I counseled them when they were about to buy their first home.
Like many young newlyweds, they wanted to have a house bigger and better than their parents. We told them they might have to wait and we strongly suggested that they not buy anything they couldn't afford on his salary alone. After all, we suggested, when a pregnancy, job loss or illness suddenly reduces you to a one-income family, a looming mortgage that's based on two salaries can becomes an indomitable problem.
They took our advice and five children later they're still in that small home. They have built an addition called the"boys' dorm," put one son through college, have a daughter in college and another son and daughter headed toward college after high school. Their oldest son is now a firefighter like his father.
This is more than bragging about our family — it's an illustration of living within one's means.
Let's be honest about it. Even in good economic times, whether large items like houses and cars or small things, overspending can still be the result of poor planning or bad decisions.
So, whether good times or bad, you need to break the habits associated with overspending, spending more than you make.
2. The biblical solution
Does the Bible really have anything to say about overspending?
Well, if you're doing a biblical word search for"overspending," chances are you won't find the specific word. But the principle is there in God's Word. Check these out.
· "The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naïve go on and are punished for it" (Proverbs 22:3).
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with w[Lit wickedly ]rong motives, so that you may spend it on [Lit in ]your pleasures" (James 4:3).
· "Who has given [Lit anticipated ]to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine" (Job 41:11).
· In Matthew 6:24, Christ very precisely says we must either serve God or money. We cannot serve both.
If you're reasonably certain that you know God's will for you, and you've decided to live your life His way, then you'll have the sort of balance in your life that precludes any sort of habitual overspending or binge spending.
3. A Christian's perspective
Most people who have a problem with spending too much do so because they aren't living on a monthly budget. Let's face it, many people don't even like the word budget. Some who are reading this may be saying something like,"I've lived this long without a budget, why do I need one now?"
However, whether you like the word or not, a family budget facilitates the way you manage how you will spend your monthly income, because it helps you plan for regular expense payments as well as occasional and even emergency needs.
So, if you don't like the idea of having to live on a budget, then let's call it a monthly spending plan. Once you have committed to a budget/spending plan that allows you to live within the means that God has provided for you, you'll be amazed at what it does for your finances, relationship with your spouse, confidence and your general well-being.
One thing is certain: overspending produces debt problems that can compound themselves and things like family relationships quickly deteriorate under the pressures of payment deadlines.
It's no secret that the main source of debt is accumulation from credit cards. Overspending through the use of a credit card often is the result of poor planning or lack of time and may result in some families spending as much eating out as they spend on the food they eat at home.
You might discover that delaying those instant gratification impulses you occasionally get will reveal how little you really need the item. So, instead of giving in to instant gratification and charging something, plan and save regularly, and then purchase the item.
God always has an alternative to debt. But, of course, it may mean that you need to rethink and reset your living standards in order to resist any tendencies toward lavish overspending.
For some real-time online help with establishing your spending plan, go to www.crown.org.
You'll find a free online calculator and other free financial tools that will show you how to track your expenses and get started on your spending plan.
Stop overspending now—you can get along without a loan!
Next: Part three of the Getting Along Without Getting a Loan module –"Soaring price panic."
Harvey Nowland is a freelance writer living in Gainesville, Ga.