Developing the Habit of Saving

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. – Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

A patient man has great understanding. – Proverbs 14:29 (NIV)

Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. – James 5:7  (NIV)

I love the scriptures above.  We need to be reminded that God honors patience and wisdom and self-control. But, just because God honors those things does not make them easy.

Savings is tough. You know how it feels to delay gratification.  You know how it feels to eat leftovers.  You know how it feels to say no to a new outfit.  You know how it feels to say “no” to a financial urge or even a financial priority in the name of saving money.

Really, I’d say that most aspects of a financial plan are tough!  Getting out of debt, paying taxes, deciding on long-term financial priorities, even knowing where to give are all challenging decisions.

How, though?  How do you begin to save or how do you re-make your savings plan so that you really do move in the direction of having an emergency fund and meeting your long-term goals?

There are answers that have to do with our habits:  make your savings automatic each month; depend on accountability with someone else who is saving; move to an all-cash system of spending money; downsize your lifestyle; pay off short term debt and then dedicate a similar monthly amount to short term savings.  All of these will help.

In addition to the habitual, there is the spiritual. God wants to use our money to teach us about ourselves and, more importantly, about Himself through the financial choices that we make.  When we prayerfully set financial goals, including savings goals, we are serving a higher purpose by choosing to save each day.  By aligning our money with God’s work in our lives, we are also giving ourselves an eternal and a foundational reason to make the “hard choice” and save money.

Here’s a final thought about the “how” of savings.  At its core, savings is one form of margin.  Americans’ lives are bursting at the seams.  We lack margin in all areas: time, money, emotions, schedules, sleep, food, relationships, etc.  If you want to implement a savings plan that is significant, you will need to find margin in your life somewhere else in order to do it.  You will need time to learn to cook more cheaply instead of eating out.  You will need time and emotional energy to clean out your home and have a garage sale.  You will need relational margin with your spouse to say “no” to things you have become accustomed to having.  You will need time to plan your shopping so that you don’t end up running to the store for “last minute” items over and over.

Everything affects everything. It is not reasonable for you to expect yourself to save more money and not give yourself that margin back in another area of life. As you look to save more, please take the time to think through areas where you can give yourself more space – areas in your schedule, areas in your relationships, areas in your time with God – so that you will have the increased margin that you can devote to your new goal of saving.