Many people are talking about money and the struggling economy these days, but what difference does that make to you—especially if you're a teen or a young adult still in college or trade school? Maybe you don't have to worry about your allowance continuing, or maybe your part-time job isn't in any danger. So why worry about how you use your money—your dough?
God tells us that "sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking person will walk right into it and regret it later" (Proverbs 22:3, Good News Translation).
The financial truth is, how you treat your money today is a good indication of how you will treat it later in life. If you're careful with the smaller amount of money you have now, the odds are very good that the habits you develop will carry over to how you handle money later. All that changes is the number of digits on the left side of the decimal point!
While there are many principles we could discuss, let's focus on one basic principle: Don't waste what you have.
Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Just get the most out of what you have. However, there's more to it than you might first think.
Wasting is done in many subtle ways. Much of the Western world has been driven by greed. Advertisers often find unique ways to make people feel incomplete, unfulfilled and "not good enough" without their product. They convince people to purchase something they don't need and cannot afford with money they don't have.
In other words, people borrow to get something today and then pay interest for years on that purchase. Controlling impulse buying is only one application of the proverb that says, "It is better to have self-control than to conquer a city" (Proverbs 16:32, New Living Translation).
Avoid impulse buying
Once a person starts down the road of giving in to impulse buying, it's almost impossible to stop. Before long the newness wears off that most recent purchase, and the compulsive shopper buys more items the same way. This begins a cycle of purchasing more and more on credit, accompanied by the temptation to not pay off one's full balance each month.
Interestingly, according to the debt statistics page of CreditCards.com, 41 percent of college students have a credit card and 65 percent pay off the full balance each month. The percentage paying in full each month is higher than the general adult population, which indicates that many young people realize paying interest on credit cards is a waste of money. However, not everyone gets it, because the average credit card debt among indebted young adults rose by 55 percent between 1992 and 2001.
As a young person, what are some other ways to make the most of what you have and not waste it? First, let's look at a few proverbs. Then we'll discuss how to have fun but spend less doing it.
The importance of maintenance
All material things require some effort to keep them "at their peak." This means a person must be willing to work hard when it's time to work.
Proverbs 24:30-34 expresses it this way: "I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one lacking sense. I saw that it was overgrown with thorns. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest—and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber" (NLT).
God does not condemn relaxing and having fun at appropriate times, but He denounces laziness. A lazy person wastes what he or she has. In this case, what should have been a productive asset (a vineyard) was not producing any income because its owner was lazy when he should have repaired the wall, tended the plants and maintained the vineyard so it would continue to produce.
A similar passage says, "A lazy person is as bad as someone who destroys things" (Proverbs 18:9, NLT). The lesson is simple: Everything we own should be cared for. Even toys, musical instruments, electronics, tools and vehicles should be treated with care to protect their value and keep them productive. Otherwise they'll have to be replaced, and we will have wasted what we have.
Fun on less money
But what about when your friends want to go out to eat or watch a movie and you'd like to join in the fun? Eating out is a lot more expensive than eating at home, but you can still do it economically with some planning.
Maybe eat something before you go so you'll be satisfied with an appetizer instead of a full meal. Or take along your favorite small flavor packet and order water instead of a drink. You can also save money by not buying a dessert and eating something later at home. Anyone who analyzes his or her finances knows that when we eat out the bill often runs up quickly with dessert and drinks.
If you're carefully watching your spending, are you doomed to never watch a movie? Certainly not, but you have to be a bit more creative to make the most of your dough. Why not share a DVD or game rental with your friends? Pool your money for the rental—or take turns renting—making sure it's returned on time, of course, to avoid any late fees (which would be another waste of money).
With some thought and perhaps scouring the Internet, you can find additional ways to make your money go further. Tips like "never pay retail by shopping sales and discount stores for bargains" or "find ways to give without spending by sending a letter or homemade card" can end up making the money you have go further.
Believe it or not, even staying healthy is a good way to make the most of what you have, because sickness usually means you cannot work, which means you lose income and perhaps drain your bank account.
It takes effort, but there are many ways to make the most of what you have. Interestingly, Jesus pointed out that being careful in small things has great implications in other areas of life. He said: "Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won't be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities" (Luke 16:10, NLT). Learn to faithfully care for what you have and avoid wasting money. If you do, God will reward you with much greater things! GN