By Chuck Bentley
Most of the financial principles I live by I learned because I was doing it all wrong. For the majority of my young adult life, and well into my marriage, I was focused on all the wrong things. Being a success in the eyes of the world was the most important thing to me. I had grown up in church and knew the biblical principles well, I just never thought any of it had to do with how I earned or spent my money.
But through God’s grace and 21 years of my wife’s prayers, God changed my heart through a Crown Bible study in 1999. Ever since, I’ve been learning to live my life as a steward – a manager, instead of an owner – of all God has given me.
With these lessons have come discipline, joy, freedom, and peace – all elements of my financial picture that were severely lacking. I’m now passionate about helping others to align their lives and finances with what God’s Word says, and these 6 Rules for Riches are the most basic of the principles.
Basic in nature, but not in action. They’re not necessarily “easy” and are certainly contrary in many ways to how the world would tell you to spend your money. But they’re straight from Scripture and I believe they will help you avoid the sin of the Rich Young Ruler, and instead acquire true riches.
Rule 1: Live Beneath Your Means
Too often we become accustomed to living beyond our means, spending 110% of our income and racking up debt. Your income is like a limbo bar and every month you need to be able to get under that bar. A budget is what helps you to do this. Don’t get distracted with sales, “good deals” or the mentality that you can just pay it off later.
1 Timothy 6:8 – “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
Rule 2: Use All Cash
It’s been proven over and over that an all-cash budget will help you spend less money. Even if you don’t use cash for every single expense, at least cash out the categories of your budget you tend to overspend in, like groceries, eating out, entertainment, and miscellaneous.
The envelope system is a tried and true form of budgeting that I would encourage you to adopt now.
Proverbs 26:23-24 – “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.“
Rule 3: Avoid All Debt
Now, the only exception to this rule is a mortgage. But even if you have a mortgage, I strongly recommend you put down at least 20% as a downpayment to avoid PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance). Debt is not a sin, but the Bible warns us to avoid debt because of all the stress and burden that comes along with it.
If you have debt of any kind, I want you to go through Crown’s 5 Steps to Debt-Free Living Mini Course. It’s just 4 short videos you can access for free that will help you understand, get out of, and avoid debt. If you’re struggling with credit card debt and need help, get in touch with Christian Credit Counselors.
Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
Rule 4: Build Emergency Savings Fund
Only 38% of Americans could cover a surprise $1,000 expense with cash, meaning the remaining 62% would have to turn to some form of debt. The best way to combat this is to have an emergency savings fund. You start with a goal to save $1,000 (you can find some ideas to get you started here), and then work towards 3 months’, 6 months’, and a year’s worth of living expenses. The Money Map can help you make and reach your savings goals.
Proverbs 6:6-8 – “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.”
Rule 5: Buy Used Cars
Cars are depreciating assets, meaning they will only lose value, never gain value. Instead of paying for the 10-11% depreciation of driving a car off the lot, I like to avoid the steepest depreciation and buy my cars used, in cash, and drive them into the ground. I’ve been driving the same car for over 15 years and I take extremely good care of it. I’ve never had an issue with it and intend to drive it until it won’t drive anymore.
Galatians 6:4 – “Each of us should test our own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”
Rule 6: Learn to Be Frugal
Now this rule is really where my wife’s strengths shine through. She’ll put on a fantastic outfit and tell me that from head to toe the whole thing cost her less than $20. She just has a skill and a discipline to find good deals and spend very little money. There are many ways you can be frugal and save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Luke 12:15 – “Take care, and be on your guard against all kinds of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
I hope these 6 rules are helpful guidelines for you as you continue to seek financial freedom. They’re principles my family and I base our lifestyle from, and they’ve been a personal blessing to us. Remember that stewardship is about aligning your heart with God’s Words, not just changing a pattern of behaviors. I hope you find freedom and peace in your finances.