By Nina Thomas

How Do I Figure This Money Thing Out?

Congrats, you made it. You got through four years of college working those underpaying odd jobs and now you are finally working full time. In my situation, it was really five years of college as I jumped right into a master’s in education program and continued working in a teaching residency that paid very little. I kept dreaming of my full-time paycheck and everything I could one day afford.

But here’s the truth: once I started working full time, the money wasn’t what I thought it would be. As it turns out, sometimes it isn’t how much we make but our attitude toward what we have been given that makes the difference.

Honestly, although I jumped on the chance to write this post about personal finances, I kept waiting until my budget looked “better” to actually write. “Better” never came though, so my deadline came and went. I waited so long to write that a list of new blog topics got emailed out, and I finally decided to face the unglamorous truth: I’m not bad with personal finances, but I’m not that great either. I don’t have this money thing figured out. I don’t think many people do. Why do I continuously feel confused about money and struggle to live gratefully under the provision of God?

One reason is that culture sends us messages of how our life should look. To me, a nice lifestyle meant constantly eating out instead of cooking, spending more on clothes and shiny gadgets than I should, giving the bare minimum 10 percent, and never actually saving as much as I wanted to (or saving anything at all). Thankfully I never got into credit card debt and I always paid my student loans on time, but I felt like there had to be a better way to live and spend freely.

I came to the realization that although I was doing a lot of things right, I needed to learn to save and to live better within what God has given me. I feel a call to live happily under the provision God has given me and prepare for a harder season in life by saving.

The story of Joseph in the Bible is a helpful example for me. He foretold of a season of blessings that would be followed by famine and thus recommended saving to prepare for a future time of hardship. Our lives go through different seasons, and during a time in which I’m able to work full time, why not save enough for an emergency? However, if God has clearly led you to sell everything and give away all of your savings today, do it. But there’s a difference between a direct command of God to give and the decision to just indulge and not prepare wisely for the future by choosing not to save.

Before working full time it was easy to imagine that I would be happier when I had more money. Although it was a blessing to earn more, a lot of my previous struggles still existed. Sometimes we do need to change jobs and earn more if we are struggling to live with our income, but I’ve come to realize that a lot of my struggles come from wanting more than I currently can afford.

How might my life be transformed if I grow in learning to live better under the provision given to me? One way that I’ve been practicing this is by looking back at the book Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most and practicing various challenges that the authors present. For example, have you considered how wealthy we are in relation to the global wealth rating? It’s easy to feel like we never have enough, but a simple search on globalrichlist.com revealed to me that I’m in the top .15 percent of richest people in the world. In one hour I make $33.85, while a laborer in Zimbabwe makes fifty-three cents. What things do you have in your life that others would count as a luxury? Considering how much you have compared to other people in the story, do you believe you have enough?

What is one step you think God might be calling you to take with regard to your finances? Take some time this week to talk to him about how he’s calling you to live.

Nina Thomas is an urban educator, speaker, and blogger. You can view more of her writing on her blog, brownlikecurry.com.

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