In my last post I shared some thoughts about some of the traps I fell into and mistakes I made in my over 20 years as a single person in handling my money. Today I want to offer some practical thoughts about things you can do as a single person in regards to finances.
But let me start with this: How you handle your money as a single person in the Kingdom is just as important as how a married person handles theirs for at least two reasons. First, you are just as important as a married person. Second, the scriptures are clear that all of us need to handle our money well.
Here’s a truth: Married people typically do better financially than single people. This is a verifiable fact. Now some of this is due to things like tax laws, dual income with shared expenses etc. Fair enough. But part of it is that we as single folks fall into the afore mentioned traps.
This has always mattered. But with where our culture is with delayed marriage, even for those who get married, we have to get a handle on this. Even if you get married it is likely you’ll have more time unmarried than in previous generations and less time as marrieds to turn it around. And if you don’t ever get married then you want to be sure you don’t spend your whole life stressed out and your retirement alone and broke.
That said, here are some practical thoughts:
Debt Is Bad
Proverbs 22:7 says “The borrower is slave to the lender”. Is it a sin to be in debt. That would be a stretch. But it’s not smart and not God’s plan for our finances.
So we need to do two things here. First we need to avoid debt. I remember once having a conversation with a late 20 something single guy I was mentoring. I asked him what he wanted in life. He said he wanted to be financially secure. I said, “First, you need some bigger goals. Second, that’s easy to do: Just spend less than you make.”
Avoiding debt early in life mostly means delaying gratification. It means saving up for the vacation, not taking it and then thinking you’ll pay it off later. Man I did that a lot. It means the same thing for a car. Let me tell you this right now. No one cares what car you drive. Literally no one but you. I’ve never one time thought, “man your car is terrible – I don’t like you now.”
Don’t spend the money you don’t have.
The second key is get out of the debt you have. The Bible is also clear here. If you owe it, you have to pay it. You know why? Because it’s not yours. The faster you pay it off, the less interest you’ll have to pay, but one way or another, you’ll pay for it.
Have A Budget
Part of staying out of debt as well as getting out of current debt is having an actual budget. You don’t make a budget by simply tracking what you spend. You need to instead decide each month what you are going to spend your money on BEFORE you spend it.
This is the difference between you owning your money and it owning you. A budget allows you to tell your money what to do before it does it. It is the key to the whole deal.
Share That Budget
Now this is counter cultural in every way. But hey, being counter cultural is “in” right? Someone besides you should be aware of your budget. At the very least in general. What I’m suggesting is this: Have some financial accountability. This to me is no different than all of our other accountability groups. It won’t be easy because it will be hard to find someone to do this with you. If you have to, take it to someone older that you trust. Bottom line, doing it alone will be really, really tough. So try not to.
Don’t Make Big Purchases Alone
One thing I would do over as a single would be this: I’d have someone else house hunt with me. I bought a house I shouldn’t have. You know why? Because I did it all by myself. Now I know some people are capable of good decisions here. But the truth is the having a trusted friend in the mix is going to be good. If you know what to do what’s the disadvantage of having a second person affirm that. If you don’t know what to do, then all the more reason.
Budget For Giving And Saving
A part of your budget needs to be for giving. 10% would be an ideal starting point. If you start doing this early, you’ll just keep doing it. The average Christian gives about 3%. That’s just sad on every level.
As far as saving, start with what many call the emergency fund. This is the fund that you have for when things go wrong. Your car breaks down. You have a medical bill. You lose your job. If you have no savings at all (which I often didn’t) start here: Save $1000. Do that before you do anything else. Then once you’ve paid down debt, increase it to at least three months of your expenses. Then start saving for the next purchase you might want.
It is amazing what a difference this makes internally. It’s a safety net. It keeps you from debt if something goes wrong and it let’s you buy things with money you have instead of money you don’t.
If You’re A Guy – Handle Your Money Like You’re A Provider
I get it. In today’s culture the guy isn’t always the provider, even in marriage. And if you’re single then it seems sort of pointless. But here is why this matters.
First, no matter what you may hear out there, your ability to provide is attractive to women. It just is. This is reality regardless of what culture says.
Second, many single women once they get married actually do want to stay home with the kids. So put yourself in a position to be able to offer that. Not because you have to or because you owe it, but because it’s true. Being in debt and not having a career will hurt this. Plan on it and if your future wife doesn’t want it, then you’ll just have more money.
Third, you are, at the very least, providing for the future you. Why not retire a millionaire. Heck a multi millionaire. Why not retire early. What you do now is part of your provision for that.**
Finally, you are providing for the Kingdom. Making more means more to be generous with. The better that you handle your money the more ability you’ll have to make a difference with your money. Frankly the bigger platform you’ll have because of it.
Don’t Waste Time
One of the big traps of singleness, especially as a younger single is the idea that all of this can start later. I’m saying instead to start now. Go get it now! Your twenties and thirties should be a time of building your platform so that you can impact things later, not doing whatever you want to now so you have to work to pay it back later. Don’t waste years on both ends of your life not doing that.
But . . .
I can hear all of the “Buts” right now. I might even get some in the comment section. “I know this is right but . . .” Well that’s up to you. I get it. I was there. I lived it. You have to want it. Is it scriptural? Yes. Will it help you now? Yes. Will it help you later? Yes.
At the very least I’d encourage you to own it one way or the other. It’s just like any other topic – be intentional, do things on purpose.
**If your company offers a match for a 401K or something of that nature, for the Love.OF.ALL.THINGSf – enroll and take that match. Immediately!
I don’t typically plug people or products on this site. However it seems sort of unfair not to mention a couple here both because of how they have helped me and shaped part of what I’m saying, and as a practical resource for some of what is mentioned above.
Budgeting: I mentioned the EveryDollar App from Dave Ramsey’s people earlier. It’s what I use, it’s easy to use, it’s fantastic and it’s free
Retirement : Great book I recently read on retirement by Chris Hogan
Getting out of Debt – Ramsey’s website has the most simple, straightforward plan you’re going to find – if you’re serious about it.