To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.
I'm losing sleep over money worries. Seriously. Sometimes the stress of figuring out how to balance debt, bills and life is almost more than I can stand. Where do I begin?
Sleepless in America
I know how you feel. I was once there myself during a time when I had excessive debt and I was laid off from my job. Financial stress is a serious challenge for many of us.
In counseling individuals, couples, and church communities about money for many years, I've seen that money worries can be a cancer, distracting us from what God wants us to accomplish in life. And so many of us are losing the joy of life due to this anxiety. A recent story in MarketWatch reported that "Americans are more stressed than ever — and for most of them, their bank accounts are to blame."
Almost 7 in 10 Americans (62 percent) reported that they were losing sleep because of money worries, according to a study from CreditCards.com. While that is a slight improvement from the 69 percent who reported they lost sleep because of money worries in 2009, that's still an astronomical number of Americans extremely stressed about money. And we are worried about everything — health care, insurance, retirement, education, mortgages, cars, and credit cards.
Financial stress is also one of the leading factors contributing to the high suicide rates of American soldiers.
And the most stressed of all? Generation-Xers and Millennials, who said that student loan debt keeps them up at night.
It is vital for each of us to get control of our emotions and our finances so that the potential that God designed in all of us is not lost to the distraction of worry and fear.
Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-34: "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Likewise, 2 Timothy 1:7 reminds us "for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
So let's employ these principles to stop worrying, gain sound minds, and get a handle on our financial stress.
Step One: Trust God.
Never forget that you are not alone and that God himself understands our needs.
In Luke 12:27-28 we read: "Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you ...?"
Our founder, the late Larry Burkett famously stated, "Do you trust God or just say that you trust God?"
Study God's Word and seek to apply His principles to your everyday life.
Step Two: Budget Carefully.
You're never going to get ahead without a plan, which must begin with an assessment of your assets, your debts, your bills and obligations. You must build a functional budget before you can set goals, knowing where your needs are and with what you have to work.
You can learn more about how to get your finances under control with Crown's Money Map. Getting on a budget will help relieve stress immediately to ensure you stop overspending.
Step Three: Cut Debt Deliberately.
As you already know, debt kills opportunity as all your resources must cover obligations. Begin tackling debt with the snowball method, paying off the smallest debt first and then rolling those resources into the next largest obligations.
Crown has a free calculator to help you establish a plan of attack and calculate how long it will take to pay it all off. You may also consider getting in touch with Christian Credit Counselors. As a non-profit credit counseling agency, they have a team of dedicated counselors that can help you avoid bankruptcy, debt settlement scams, and quick fixes that ruin credit.
Step Four: Save Diligently.
The reason why so many of us have credit card debt is because we never had savings in reserve. One of your first goals must be to save $1,000 to have in case of emergencies. You may be surprised to learn 6 in 10 Americans don't have even $500 in savings. Prepare for that rainy day (which will certainly come) by saving first $1,000 and then working your way up to a year's-worth of living expenses.
Step Five: Give Purposefully.
Too many people think that giving is something you do only if all your other financial goals are met. But in fact, in giving, we acknowledge that God is the source of our strength, our skill, our health, our resources, and our very lives.
Proverbs 3:9-10 reminds us that putting God first leads to blessing, commanding: "Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine."
Make giving your top financially priority and most of your financial problems will be worked out accordingly.
My hope for you and all who are spending sleepless nights worried over money is that through this struggle, you will build a closer relationship with God himself, the only one who can truly help you.
Remember Philippians 4:6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
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