It’s that time of year again. You know, the time of year when commercials on TV tell you how to get your personal finances under control. It’s also tax season in the United States, which means tax service commercials.
Add the debt consolidation commercials, and by this point in January, you’re under a constant assault of junk mail, spam emails, adds, and commercials trying to capitalize on New Year’s resolutions to save more in 2021. (Don’t get me started on the millions of new gym memberships because of resolutions to lose weight. That’s another article for another day.)
I realize most people don’t stick to their resolutions, but I wish most people would stick to this one. I wish that people would start to put money away in January and continue to put it away throughout the year.
Unfortunately, most resolutions don’t end up as new habits by the end of the year. Many people around the world make a commitment to get financially healthy each year. They start off financially strong in January, but by the middle of February, things go downhill fast. By May, they’re right back to where they were financially the year before… if not worse.
I am not a financial planner. This article is not designed to help you build wealth or to become a rich overnight. I just want to use the next few paragraphs to help you consider why you’re putting money away in the first place. My goal is to help you examine your motivation behind saving money if that’s your New Year’s resolution for this year.
Are the best things in life really free?
You’ve probably heard the phrase the best things in life are free. However, very few people actually live that way. Ask yourself if you really live like the best things in life are free.
The things that human relationships bring are the best things in life. Real love, fulfillment, and joy cannot be purchased with cash. These gifts are most often found in relationships with other people. That’s what makes relationships meaningful and satisfying parts of our existence. No amount of money can make our relationships better.
If relationships are so powerful and so valuable, why do some people focus so much energy and attention on their net worth? If your bank account can’t buy you happiness, why be so obsessed with how much or how little money is in your savings account? A focus on your personal net worth above relationships shows that something’s wrong with your values in life.
Don’t make the mistake of asking your bank account to do something for you that it cannot do. Don’t look for happiness, personal satisfaction, security, or social status from your savings account. Your net worth cannot buy these things for you… no matter how big it gets.
If money can’t buy happiness, why are you working so hard for more of it?
When you take a step back and view the way the average person in western society lives, most people are breaking their backs working for something that money can’t buy. Don’t be mistaken; I’m an advocate for hard work. Hard work is its own reward.
Even in the Bible book of Genesis, people are expected to work hard. There’s nothing wrong with working by the sweat of your brow to bring home food for your family. However, if you’re not careful, work can get out of whack.
There is a difference between working hard to provide for your family and breaking your back to have a better life than your neighbors. The difference is subtle, but significant. I believe you’ve crossed over this imaginary line when you’re working hard to buy the latest gadget or the newest toy, hoping it will bring you social status. Check out this recent sermon if you want to know more about how to have a healthy relationship with savings.
When you examine many people’s spending habits and their meager savings accounts, the evidence sure suggests that people are actually trying to buy happiness. Many people hope that the newest gadget or the latest toy will make them happy on the inside. They purchase that latest fad hoping it will bring them joy.
But eventually, the joy starts to fade. That’s when the gadget is no longer able to satisfy. So, we go out and buy a newer gadget. On and on and on this spending cycle goes for people all around the world.
When your money sprouts wings and flies away
I used to challenge soldiers about the way they spent their money before they returned to the US. I talked honestly to thousands of warriors before they returned from combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Many of these guys and gals saved money the entire time that they were on foreign battlefields. Along with their savings, the government paid an additional hazardous duty allowance while deployed to a combat zone. These two conditions often led to warriors returning from combat with a lot of money in the bank.
My advice was always the same: “Think before you spend. Have a plan before you purchase something.”
I gave this advice because of the countless examples of warriors who returned from overseas with huge bank accounts, only to spend it all in a few weeks and have nothing to show for it. The hard-earned money in your savings account can disappear overnight if you’re not careful about how you spend it.
Sometimes an unexpected expense or crisis will wipe out your bank account in one day. Often, however, the money disappears in a series of small-ticket items. These small amounts can add up fast.
I want to leave you with the same challenge that I gave to these warriors… Think before you spend. Carefully examine how you spend and how much you save, because there is a biblical principle at stake. Money can fly away quickly.
As Proverbs 23:4–5 says, “Don’t wear yourself out to get rich; because you know better; stop! As soon as your eyes fly to it, it disappears, for it makes wings for itself and flies like an eagle to the sky.”
 Genesis 3:17-19