My Life

Saving and Spending Like a Saint: 5 Money Tips

Growing up, money was a sensitive subject in my house. My parents worked hard but were often behind on bills and frustrated with each other about finances. I couldn’t wait to get my own job so that I could finally have some independence. I was sixteen and began working as a waitress at a burger chain. I’ll spare the details but there was an unflattering outfit that included a black bow tie. Every teenage girl’s dream, right? Fashion-wise no, but the paycheck was worth the minor embarrassment.

I was excited but also worried. Even though no one relied on me for food, clothing, or a home, I knew that I could do the right things or the wrong things with money. I just wasn’t sure what that looked like.

I did know that saving was a good thing and that I should do it. That resolve didn’t seem to make a difference in my spending habits though. I’d see that my favorite store was running a sale on jeans. Even though I had five pairs at home, I would buy them anyway because, hey, I looked fabulous in them. This same pattern repeated in many scenarios. I would make a mental resolve to save and then something more exciting would present itself. You can probably relate.

I didn’t realize that God was entrusting responsibility to me through my use of money. I believed that money was ‘out of my control’, ‘the root of all evil’, that I would always be running out it, and that to know too much about money meant I had made an idol of it. I knew that I needed to figure out how to be good with money beginning with my first job. If money was a big enough deal to stress out the adults around me, then I should take the time to understand how it worked.

All of us have a different perception of money based on the way we were raised. For me, finances brought up anxiety. There is a well-known phrase ‘money is the root of all evil’ and it’s actually a misquote from Scripture. Scripture says, “For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10, emphasis added). Money itself is not the root of evil in the world. It’s our own actions and worship of money that can become evil. When money becomes more of a priority than our relationship with God it has become an idol for us. This is why Pope Francis has said, “Money has to serve, not to rule” (Address to New Ambassadors, 2013). Money is a neutral tool that can be used for good or for evil. God wants us to put money in its proper place and become good stewards of it.

From the beginning, God instructs Adam and Eve, “… fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28). To have dominion means to have authority to rule over something. Ruling over the Earth applies to finances as well. God calls us to have dominion over money rather than money ruling over us. This means that we first recognize money as a gift from God, handle it responsibly, share it with those in need, and offer it back to God.

Many of you already have an income, are buying cars, and planning for college. Your financial decisions will affect your life for years to come. So, here are some tips to start your relationship with money off right.

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1. Educate Yourself

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You cannot make good decisions about money if you don’t understand the basics of how money works. There’s no shame in not understanding personal finance, it’s what we do about that fact that counts. Do some research, ask questions, and don’t ever make purchases that you don’t understand. This will save you from making decisions you’ll regret.

2. Don’t Spend More Than You Have

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St. Paul says, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another …” (Romans 13:8). Scripture also cautions that, “the borrower is the slave of the lender” and that the man who borrows money is a “fool” (Proverbs 21:20, 22:7). Debt means we have a balance owed to someone. If we have taken debts, God says we should pay them off promptly. God doesn’t condemn debt but He isn’t in favor of it. Debt is easy to get into and hard to avoid. That’s why we have to think ahead. This is important particularly for large purchases (car, college, etc.). By planning and being educated, you would be surprised at how much debt you can avoid.

3. Dream

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Being a good steward of our finances isn’t always easy. That’s why it’s important to set goals for ourselves that motivate us to stick with it. Maybe your goal is getting through college debt free, buying a new gaming system, or traveling abroad after high school. Whatever it is, setting a goal you’re really passionate about makes sacrificing for it easier. Along with personal goals, I would encourage you to make giving goals. A great place to start is your parish, and after that picking charities you are passionate about. Let your money be a blessing for others.

4. Make a Plan

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This is where your dreams get specific. Make a plan on how you will get to your goals. Start with your short term goals like saving up for your Mom’s birthday then move to long term goals like saving up for a car. The way to start is by creating a budget. This means that every month you write down how much money you will receive and where you want that money to go. Then, you’re in the driver’s seat of your finances and its harder for your money to slip out of your fingertips before you even realize you had it. To achieve your goals you’re going to have to be creative and do some hard work. This may mean selling old clothes, starting a lawn mowing business, or giving up your fancy latte habit. Once your goals are the motivation, being creative is second nature.

5. Trust God

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Throughout this process, the best thing we can do is offer everything back to God. Ask Him to give you the Grace to be a good steward of your finances from the beginning. Inevitably, we will have times of struggle, but God will always get us through. Take heart in what Jesus tells us, “… do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on… Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26). If you can believe it, God cares about your happiness even more than you do. So let’s trust Him. Not just with our money, but every aspect of our life.

About the Author

Nicole Stanley

I got scolded in school for being too talkative. Not much has changed since then. I love deep conversations over coffee and mindless laughter at a party. I have intermediate volleyball skills, a rough case of wanderlust, and prefer sushi over everything else. The best decision I've made in my life is to follow Christ. If you need me, you'll probably find me taking home videos of my daughter or trying to get my husband to dance with me in public. Let's be friends: follow me @nicoleemilie23