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Ask Chuck: How to stop financial procrastination

Ask Chuck your money question

Dear Chuck,

I just started my career. Can you give me some simple tips that could help me improve my finances? I really struggle with procrastination. How do I set and meet financial goals?

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Financial Procrastinator

Dear Financial Procrastinator,


Congratulations on starting your career and the desire to change the way you manage your finances! Procrastination seems harmless, but it actually leaves you vulnerable to financial pain in the future. I hope I can motivate you to take action.

Make a plan and stick to it daily

Have you ever made a little decision that resulted in a BIG impact? I know I have. In 2015, I decided to drink only water for the entire year — no coffee, tea, juice, soda, smoothies, or lattes; nothing but H2O! For full disclosure, I made it the entire 365 days and felt so good.

What difference did it make?

For one, it helped my budget! I broke the habit of buying $5 coffee at the airport or buying a soda just because I was thirsty. More importantly, it made me realize just how much sugar I was consuming! It caused me to enjoy water and sleep better, and it improved my overall health.

We can apply that same type of thinking to our finances.

Five financial habits to change your life

Five little decisions can make a walloping impact on your finances. I have compiled a list of those that I believe will help the most. They are my personal favorites, things I would tell my own children are essential for them, as well as for me!

1. Honor God off the top

Right now, you are honoring someone or something first with your finances. It might be the government, your landlord, your mortgage lender, your utility company, or your favorite shopping destination. Someone is getting the first portion of your income. Replace whoever or whatever is currently first by giving off the top of every source of your income to your church and other ministries that build God’s Kingdom.

If you cannot give a full 10%, which I think is the appropriate beginning standard, start with what you can cheerfully do, and don’t turn back. Increase the amount as you are able.

“Trust me on this one!” Those are not my words; they are God’s words, paraphrased from Malachi 3.

2. Save diligently

Pick a day and declare, “No more! I will not go another month without saving something from my next paycheck!” Make the decision, and then start saving something — even if it is only $5 a month. Save something from every source of income. You need a minimum of $1,000 in an emergency savings account at all times.

Open a savings account, buy a small safe, or simply put money under the mattress for now, but don’t spend everything you have! This habit will make you wise like the ant in Proverbs 6:68. Little by little, you will have money saved for emergencies, your stress will go down, and financial stability will one day become a reality. 

3. Stop getting a tax refund

Many people celebrate a tax refund as if Uncle Sam decided to reward them for their good behavior! While I never like to discover that I owe the IRS money, I do not like to get a tax refund either. 

Rather than loan the government money this year, adjust your withholding or quarterly payments. Pay what you owe or expect to owe—but nothing more. This small act could impact your cash flow and allow you to begin giving and saving some money each month.

4. Spend less than you earn

This is the key to reaching any financial goal. It requires the discipline of a budget. Rather than being intimidated by budgeting, recognize that it will keep you on track, help you reach goals, and allow you to experience rewards. It’s a tool that you can adjust as needed. Record your spending and note where your money goes. Recognize any and all bad spending habits, confess them, and repent. Resolve to change your behavior by believing that you “can do all things through Him who strengthens” you (Philippians 4:13). Ask God to give you self-control, then listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. 

The envelope system, or “cash stuffing,” has value in that it is harder to take cash out of an envelope than to hand over a credit card. Each month, you divide cash into envelopes that represent different spending categories. Record every purchase, and you will discover that you spend less because your envelopes hold you accountable.

5. Reduce your expensive debt 

Hopefully, you have not gone into consumer debt. Avoid expensive debt, like credit cards, store accounts, or car loans. If you are in debt, decide to pay off your most expensive debt. Then do it again … and again … and again. It is a little decision with a major payoff — freedom from worrying about the future, about your job, about making it to the end of the month. Check out these debt reduction methods.

Take action today

In 1 Corinthians 9:24–26, the Apostle Paul said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So, I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Take action today with a disciplined approach to achieve your goals and please God with the way you manage money. These tips are not big mountains to climb, just smart steps that over time will change your relationship with God, your finances, your relationship with others, and much more! Set attainable goals, and proceed with hope, discipline, and joy.

If credit card debt is holding you in bondage, a valuable and trusted source is Christian Credit Counselors. They can help consolidate debt and get you on the road to financial freedom.

Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.

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