Are you drowning in debt? Do you fear opening your post, or have you even stopped opening certain envelopes? Are you behind with your payments and receiving demands? Is your account being charged with late payment fees? Is your expenditure greater than your income? Do you long for the day when your debts will be repaid and you will have peace of mind?
If any of these circumstances describe your situation, it is time to rediscover your financial freedom. While you know that you are not the only person with these difficulties, that is of little comfort. It is important to recognise your part in getting into debt and acknowledge that you must now take action. Even if none of the above applies to you, you will almost certainly know someone who has debt, and it is good to pray for them as they work their way out of it.
This month we will look at a Biblical approach to becoming debt free by looking at the first 6 steps for getting out of debt.
Is today the day?
But before that can happen you first need to make a decision that you will not incur one penny of additional debt; that building up the debt mountain has to stop. Perhaps today is the day for you to make that decision. And once you have made it, prepare to start thinking about saving!
In 2 Kings 4:1-7 we learn about the widow who was threatened with losing her children to her creditor and asked Elisha for help. Elisha instructed her to borrow many empty jars from her neighbours. The Lord then multiplied her only possession – a small amount of oil – and all her jars were filled. She then sold the oil and repaid her debts to free her children. The same God who provided supernaturally for the widow is interested in your becoming debt free. The first step is to pray and seek the Lord’s help and guidance in your journey to become debt free. If you feel that you have borrowed beyond what was wise or necessary, ask God to forgive you and to walk alongside you on the debt repayment journey.
2. Stop borrowing
This is a step that can be extraordinarily difficult to take. It requires you to decide that you will not increase your borrowing. Decide it is time to stop your borrowing from getting any further out of control. Some have taken that stand with the help of plastic surgery – cutting up their cards! Others have frozen their cards in ice so that it would take time to retrieve them! If you are concerned about how you will get along without your credit cards, rest assured that you can train yourself to be independent of those 850x550mm pieces of plastic debt inducers!
3. Record your expenditure
For the next month, record all your income and expenditure, down to the last penny – and note especially how you spend your cash. This requires discipline, but it is amazing how much more aware you will become of your spending habits and how sensitive you will become to reducing non-essential expenditure.
It usually takes time to get into debt. Increasing debt is a bit like gaining weight – it can result from lack of self-discipline. Conversely, getting rid of debt is like shedding weight – it takes good self-discipline! The excess debt pounds will be shed through more careful spending habits and the careful monitoring of what you spend. At the end of the month, total up how much you have spent. Now you have some of the essential information you need for a needs-based (monthly or weekly) budget.
4. Your budget can unlock the keys to debt reduction
Your daily devotional is not the right place to start preparing a budget, but it does provide an opportunity to examine your heart before God and to determine not to allow your future spending to be influenced so much by the world’s materialistic paths. Remember that you are a steward of what you have been entrusted with. Ask yourself if and how you need to make changes to your spending patterns. How can you reduce what you spend so that you can invest more in reducing your debt? As you meditate on these matters it is important to stay focused on Christ and to trust in Him. It probably took time to get into debt and it will probably take time to become debt free.
5. List what you own
Evaluate your possessions to determine if there is anything you do not need that you could sell to help you get out of debt more quickly. What about the clothes you no longer wear or the technology you no longer use?
6. List what you owe
Many people do not know exactly what they owe, particularly if they owe a lot. Perhaps it is an aspect of human nature to avoid unpleasant things in the hope they will go away. In any event, you need to list your debts to determine your current financial position.
It is empowering to know exactly what your financial situation is. Facing a difficult situation and being honest takes courage, but God is with you and will guide you as you follow his wisdom. Supportive friends and relatives can encourage and strengthen you as you hold to your decision to reduce your debt. Prayer is powerful too and as Psalm 27 says the Lord will strengthen your heart.
“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14 NKJV