A friend recently asked me if she and her husband should buy an electric vehicle because the cost of driving his truck has risen to $700 per month due to higher gas prices. The recent rise in inflation is having a significant effect on American households, and everyone is scrambling to find ways to make their money go further.
Struggling to make ends meet is difficult when the price of everything you need is on the rise. In an attempt to take a big swing at the problem, we're more prone to make a wrong financial decision that can negatively impact our finances far beyond our current financial crisis. Being fully aware of what’s happening and taking a few important steps will ensure you and your family will remain financially sound.
We all have dreams and goals for our lives. We have a vision for how our life should be and diligently work toward that. Money plays a crucial role in our lives, and it's disheartening when our best efforts seem to be in vain, pushing our vision and goals out of reach. What makes it worse is seeing people who appear to be living the lifestyle we desperately seek. It doesn't seem fair. How are they doing it, and why can't we?
Social pressure is real, and it's always present. Our family, friends, co-workers, social media, and advertising exert significant influence on us. Some are stronger than others, but they are all in some way influencing us to spend money directly or indirectly. In normal circumstances, when we're not stressed or anxious, we can be objective, consider the cost, and resist their influence, but that's more difficult when we're under financial stress.
My friend's question about buying an electric vehicle didn't surprise me. Going green is in vogue now and constantly in the news, and since this couple is spending a LOT of money on gas each month, an electric vehicle seems like the answer to their problem. Fortunately, they did something most people fail to do when faced with these kinds of decisions; they sought counsel. More on this later in this article.
Lack of money stirs up all kinds of emotions. If you're a man, you may feel shame, inadequate, and at some point, angry at the situation, yourself, or both. If you're a woman, you'll experience some worry and fear. It's essential first to acknowledge that these feelings are normal, discuss them with your spouse if you're married, and then with someone else who can validate and help you talk through these emotions.
A few months ago, I met with a young couple desperately wanting to buy their first home. They had been diligently saving to put twenty percent down, but house prices were outpacing their saving. At the rate things were going, they didn't have a lot of hope of buying a home anytime soon. All the emotions associated with their desire to buy a house yet not being able to spilled out during our meeting.
I listened, we looked at the numbers, and I offered my thoughts on their situation. There was nothing I could do to make their dream of home ownership a reality. What I was able to do is to validate their feelings and remind them that God had been and will continue to provide for their family and that one day when it made financial sense, a house would be available for them to purchase.
Every financial decision should include the initial and overall cost of the purchase and its financial impact now and into the future. You may be thinking, "no, duh!" Yet, many people don't do it due to the lack of personal finance education, selfishness, and the struggle with materialism. The wrong financial decision can usually be traced to the numbers being misrepresented, misunderstood, or just plain ignored.
A famous quote says," My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with the facts." In financial decisions, doing the math is knowing the facts, something often ignored when someone's already made up their mind about what they want. This attitude is revealed in Proverbs 18:2, "A [closed-minded] fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his personal opinions [unwittingly displaying his self-indulgence and his stupidity].
Making sure the financial decision fits into the current budget and will not leave some other need unmet is vital. It may be difficult to face and hard to accept, but the decision to not overextend yourself will keep you and your family free from years of financial struggles.
It's not easy to ask for help, and it requires humility to consider that someone's way may be better than yours. It's especially difficult because your desires and emotions influence the decision by promising you you'll get what you want. For the believer, life isn't about what she wants; it's about what God wants, and what God wants is to keep her safe, including her finances.
Let's assume you're about to purchase something that's financially unwise. You're unaware of the social pressure influencing you to buy. You've ignored the unhealthy emotional triggers driving you, and you're blissfully optimistic that even though the numbers don't add up, it's going to be okay.
On your journey to this financial decision, you've passed these three signs. God has placed them there to warn you that there's a financial cliff ahead, and though you’ve driven right by them there's still hope. In front of you, there's one last barrier on which is written, "seek wise counsel." God has placed it there as a last effort to keep you safe. Seeking wise counsel is you stopping to give God the opportunity to speak into and guide your financial decision so that you'll make the rest of your journey safely and arrive at the destination God has planned for you.
If there's one thing we can count on is that in life, we will experience times of abundance and times of scarcity. In both seasons, outside pressures will try to influence us to live a worldly and self-gratifying life. Our emotions are fickle, and our desires are usually greater than our resources. Therefore, it's important to remember what the apostle Peter said, “Dear friends, you are foreigners and strangers on this earth. So I beg you not to surrender to those desires that fight against you.” (1 Peter 2:11 CEV)
Seeking wisdom from God's word, the Holy Spirit, and godly counsel will help you overcome unhealthy worldly desires and ensure you consistently make sound financial decisions that benefit your family and honor God.