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Master Your Money

Control your finances and you’ll improve your total fitness

Money permeates virtually every area of our lives. There are few subjects that are more talked about or thought about. How we view and handle our finances can be a blessing or a curse. As with every aspect of our lives, discipline is a key principle when dealing with money. The following financial principles can help bring a great sense of inner peace and help eliminate the stress caused by money issues.

1. Change your perspective.

Develop a realistic view of money. Money is a tool, nothing more and nothing less. It can be used for good or evil. The amount of money you have or do not have should never determine your self-worth. Avoid the trap of thinking that “more means importance.” When you let money determine your identity, you will constantly worry about having more or losing what you have. Master your money, and never let it master you.

2. Set limits, make goals.

A budget is a great way to get runaway finances back on track. Budgeting allows you to see exactly where your money is going each month. It will show the areas that need improving and the areas that are financially flourishing. There are several helpful websites that can get you started on your first budget. Just type in “budgeting” in any search engine and choose the plan that works best for you and your family. The main thing is to start staying within the budget you set. Once a budget is in place, you and your family should consider setting a few financial goals. These goals will be determined by your values. Maybe you have wanted to go on a special vacation, purchase a new appliance or buy a car. Initially, start with less expensive goals. This will build confidence and unity in the family. Whatever your goal might be, begin setting aside an amount of money each month until that goal is met. You will feel much better being able to pay cash than borrowing money or using a credit card. Plus, your family will be strengthened knowing that everyone participated in the project.

3. Factor out emotion. 

Beware of spontaneous spending. Some people are impulse buyers. Others purchase items depending on their mood. Jokingly, this could be called “retail therapy.” However, it is hardly therapy at all when you realize you really did not need the item, or you have to pay for it in monthly installments. Businesses spend millions of dollars on advertising to get you to buy their product whether you need it or not. Be wise. Don’t be fooled by gimmicks and high-pressure salespeople. Remember, you are the steward of your money, not them. What is new and improved today will be old and lousy tomorrow. Ask yourself if you really need the item. Does your budget allow you to spend the extra money? Will your purchase affect your family’s financial goals or your own goals?

Learn to live within your means. Society teaches us that we can have now and pay later. Though credit cards may be convenient, they can also be financial death traps if you don’t show proper discipline. Living within your financial means helps you keep your values intact. You learn to avoid the materialistic disease of “stuff-itis.” The most important things in life are nested in caring relationships and stress-free living, which are things that money will never buy.

4. Be generous.

Give to others. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” is a wonderful life principle. There are always people around us who have less than we do. When creating your budget, make sure you set aside a certain amount of money to give to others in need. Doing so keeps us from becoming greedy and reinforces the proper attitude about money. Let money work for you, not the other way around.

Chaplain (MAJ) Mark D. Phillips is the full-time support chaplain for the Tennessee Army National Guard and serves as the regimental chaplain for the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Knoxville, TN.