"Pay at the Speed of Want"
That's the bold slogan I saw when I logged into my Paypal account the other day. It hit me hard and kept coming back to me as I went about my daily activities. I pondered the truth of that statement and felt a little sad for how it affects so many people. So many people buy what they want when they want it, not bothering to make sure they can afford it. That kind of thinking gets you into financial trouble and it can be hard to recover from the chaos it brings.
I guess the slogan hit me especially hard because Gary and I are leading a group through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University (well, Gary is leading and I'm attending). Finances have been on my mind a little more in recent weeks. Gary is a great money manager, so we haven't gotten into trouble financially, but even being more conscious of finances has helped us since we've started the course. I noticed that our spending in certain areas has gone down and that's been kind of encouraging. A little bit of "focus" can bring quite a few positive changes.
So, as we think about focus today, I'd like you to think a little bit about where your focus is with your finances. Are you unfocused and just end up wondering where your money has gone at the end of the month? Are you worried and stressed because your income can't cover the things you're spending your money on? Are you in a pretty good place because you watch your money carefully and make sure you can afford something before you make a major purchase?
I've been realizing lately that I sometimes spend money foolishly because I feel a restlessness inside and I think I can fill that void with some thing. I caught myself gravitating toward the magazine racks at a certain store last week because I thought about buying some cardmaking/scrapbooking magazines. This store sometimes has two packaged together for just $7 - such a good deal! Well, I need more craft magazines like I need a hole in the head. I have a ton of magazines in my crafting area that I can go to when I need inspiration. This had become a bad habit, this drifting over to the magazine rack to pick up a couple of new magazines to peruse for a little while and then add to the stack that I almost never get back to.
Thankfully, since I've become aware of my compulsion, I've managed to avoid many of those impulse buys. I've been focused and I've been thinking about whether a purchase is really good for me or if it's a poor substitute for what I really need.
What do I need? The answer to that varies. Sometimes I need a talk with my husband. Sometimes I need more exercise. Sometimes I need to call a friend and get filled up that way. Often I need some time with God, a reminder that He can fill every void I may feel inside. Sometimes I need a nap!
Don't get me wrong. Buying a fun magazine or some other item that brings us joy is not wrong in and of itself. There's a place for that. When it becomes a restless, endless cycle of buying, there's something wrong.
Here is the apostle Paul's advice on this topic:
"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
(Philippians 4:11b-13 NIV)
I've always loved verse 13 (I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength) but I don't think I ever noticed that it comes right after these verses about being content. What an encouragement to realize that Christ will give us the strength to remain content whatever our financial situation might be. He is all we really need.
Is there anything you find yourself buying just because you're trying to fill some other need? How could shifting your focus to God make a change in your finances?