Goals and Self Discipline
Before we jump into the section on budget expenses, I want to emphasize the importance of self discipline and getting a handle on what money should be used for. I realize I have spent a lot of time writing about money already, but to properly utilize and manage our money requires the proper perspective of what it is, whose it is, and how we are to view it. Getting a handle on it is just as much about this intellectual understanding and psychological perspective as knowing how it is being utilized and making concerted choices about how it gets used going forward.
To determine how you should best use your resources, which include money as well as time and effort, you need to determine your own life priorities and goals. How you spend the bulk of your money, time, and effort should line up with your life priorities and goals. If they don’t, something is wrong. Are your financial goals, related to your life priorities of survival in a SHTF situation, to get out of debt, buy a bug out location, and/or buy a home and land in the Redoubt or somewhere else? Are they to put in a well, buy neighboring property, build your livestock, build your larder, buy a large solar system for the house, or something else? We should all have some clear goals in mind and match our financial goals to those. Our life goals should also include more than hard assets, too. Are we learning, teaching, and caring for others?
Success is not defined in financial terms if you are a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God’s Son told His twelve apostles not to take any money or even an extra coat with them as they went to minister. That may seem unwise, but they knew that He was their Master, and they trusted Him. So often, we read the parable in Luke 19:12-27 and hear sermons in church about the nobleman who left some of his servants with money to use for conducting business while he went away. There were some who complained about the master’s rule over them. The first two servants used the money given to them to increase the nobleman’s wealth, while the third buried the money because he said that his master was strict and he feared he might lose it. The master took the money from the third servant and gave it to the first, and then he had all of those who grumbled against him killed. Verses 26-27 say, “For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.” It seems to me that Jesus is saying that money (and all that God gives to us) is a tool to be used and not hidden away to be worshipped or in fear of being stolen, and we must recognize and submit to our Master, above all, without grumbling. I can’t recall a single sermon where I have heard that last part included. Maybe I wasn’t listening well at that point, but it seems to me to be paramount that the story was as much about having contentment and faith in our Master as it is in wisely utilizing the resources He gives us, as we are His stewards of all things. He is the Creator, so really there is nothing that we have that we created. We use things to make things, and in doing so we have some creative resemblance to our Father, but none of us make something out of nothing or our mere spoken word. Even we ourselves are His creations, as He set these complex bodies and the reproductive system in place from the beginning. This just amazes me, especially when I look at all of the universe and see the complexity, order, and balance. From this parable, we learn that we are to be wise stewards of the resources given us by God (including money) and we are to submit to our Master’s authority without grumbling. There will be a day when we are judged for our actions, and I believe our use of financial resources will be part of that. Are we using money for trivial, fleeting pleasures or for sustaining life? Are we people of our word and meeting our financial commitment to others or are we always caught up “short” and asking for mercy from others?
Money also should not be a motivation for our affections toward someone or for soothing our emotions, as in the example I gave in Part 2 of my “shopping therapy”. Neither a sizable bank account, investments, nor stuff should be the main source of our security and contentment. Bank accounts and things can disappear in the mere blink of an eye. I know this, personally. I have had it happen on more than one occasion. Jobs are lost. Homes burn down. Theft occurs, and things break and decay. None of the objects of this world last or are secure. However, the relationships we have with God and people, our health (physical and emotional), and our own understanding, knowledge, wisdom, and experience are what endure and can get us through all kinds of situations, including new starts and TEOTWAWKI, even if we have no money and minimal resources. A large bank account that has disappeared will mean nothing. Even a stock pile of gold and silver will mean little if you are hungry and thirsty and there is no one around from whom you can buy food and water. As has been said many times before, “You can’t eat gold.” However, knowing how to obtain these things may be the difference between surviving and dying.
Get a handle on what money is. It is a tool that we need in this society. It, however, is not even close to being everything! Things are not everything, and they will not make you a better person! Though the commercials and ads that we are bombarded with try to convince us that we must have their product to be accepted and loved, that is a lie! Be able to walk away from just about every deal out there, unless it is a one of a kind item that you need in order to accomplish the goals you have set. You can’t make a good deal if you are overly emotionally invested.
Set some big life goals, talk about those as a family, and keep those on the forefront of your mind when making family decisions and certainly purchases or business decisions. It makes it much easier to say “No” to the many temptations that get in the way of achieving our goals. For example, when we began working toward getting out of debt, I was in the habit of buying whatever I thought the family needed or wanted. However, Hugh and I regularly began to look at our income and talk about our goals, which included a strong desire to get out of debt so that no one could take our property from us. As I found myself at the grocery store or other stores making purchase decisions, it became easier to walk away from non-necessities when I reminded myself that $4 or $40 could be applied to debt rather than purchasing that item. Everytime I considered buying something, no matter how small, I thought about my need to get out of debt and made the judgment of whether the cost of the item should be applied to buying the item or left in our account to pay off debt. When there was extra at the end of the month, we added that to the debt payments, paying the highest interest rate items first. If a family farm is the goal, maybe you can curtail some expenses or choose a less expensive one in order to more quickly attain the goal. If you have made a financial commitment to someone or taken out a loan, you should certainly remember this no matter how attractive some item is that was not on your “need” list. If it isn’t needed, it is coming between you and your ability to meet your commitment or attain your goal. It is a stumbling block to your success. Walk away! Next week, you won’t miss that item at all. You’ve been doing with it and you will be able to do without it in the future. It is not a need.
This takes practice, but regularly reviewing goals and talking about them will help. Setting a budget and sticking with it will also help. One of the very best methods for forcing a person/family to stick to the budget is to use cash in envelopes marked for specific budget categories. Once the budget is set and goals are realistic, this also helps serve as a disciplinary tool. When the cash in my grocery budget envelope gets low, I have to cook from what’s in the pantry and freezer. Doing this has been a great exercise to teach me how to make the choice to walk away from what I desire and discover that I am just fine afterward. Many people do not know what that’s like. They see something they want and use the credit card, thinking they will figure out how to pay for it later, but later never comes. What does come is the stress of opening the credit card bill and then having to pay it and get collection calls and increased rate hikes, et cetera. Don’t do this!
It is my opinion that credit cards are evil, and debt is bondage! That Bible tells us the same thing. I hope you are out of debt and are pursuing life goals that are beyond getting out of debt. Land, a storehouse of food, tools, water capturing and filtration equipment, weapons and ammo, solar power, and all that is needed for independent living off the grid should be priorities. The knowledge to do these is priceless, and much of this is available here on SurvivalBlog without any cost to you! Take advantage of what is free.
There are fixed expenses (those that are long-term commitments for approximately the same amount each month, like rent or home mortgage), and what I call flexible expenses (like groceries, credit card payments, and entertainment). Let’s tackle the current fixed expenses first, because most of those are likely costs that cannot be quickly changed. If you don’t know the cost amount right away, remember to keep your financial notebook near where mail comes in and then write down the actual expenses as they come in the mail (or email). Within a month, you should have most of the information you need to begin getting a handle on your budget and making much better choices that guide you toward your life and financial goals.
List all of your reoccurring monthly fixed expenses and then out to the side write the amount you spend in each of the categories. For example, write Rent/home mortgage…$1,450.
Your list of fixed (long-term) expenses might include:
- Regular tithe or charitable support donation,
- Home mortgage/rent,
- Homeowners insurance and property taxes (or renter’s insurance, if renter),
- Car insurance,
- Gas and electric bills,
- Internet bill
- Telephone/cell bill(s)
- Cable or satellite television bills,
- Life insurance premium,
- Medical insurance premiums,
- Monthly savings/investment commitment, and
- (Other long-term commitments specific to you and your family)
Really watch and be accurate with these numbers so that your plans will be accurate too! In Part 4, we’ll cover the rest of the expenses– flexible ones, and begin looking at some ways to creatively cut expenses. Once you have captured all of the actual expenses, you can begin to make choices on what to cut back on and what to increase, within the boundaries of your income.