I was not always a good steward of my finances. To make a very long story short, a year after graduating college, I found myself $36,000 in consumer credit card debt. I wasn’t a Christian at the time and I was easily the loneliest I’ve ever felt in my life.
After years of struggling to get out of debt, I turned my life over to the Lord and I surrendered not only my heart, mind, body, and soul to Him, but also my wallet. And since that time, I’ve lived with a mindset of “it’s all His and I’m just a steward of it” and that mindset has served me well. My husband and I have been married almost nine years and we carry no debt other than our mortgage.
In a culture that screams consumerism, essentially encourages debt, and often times tells people to, “Go for your dreams no matter the cost!”… we’ve felt called to a counter-cultural way of living when it comes to our finances and living debt free, saving for the future, and giving generously all play a large part in that.
A lot of people ask about the “habits” of debt free people. And, while debt free people surely are not a monolith, I can pretty much guarantee that most of these practices are the practices of people who live debt free.
Now, you don’t have to be DEBT FREE to enact these types of habits or practices. Not at all, in fact. These are the types of practices that you can put into place hopefully BEFORE you’re $36K in debt. Because, the sooner you start taking control of some of these things, the sooner you find yourself taking control of your finances and being a good steward of the resources God has entrusted to you.
Additionally, this is not an end-all be-all list of habits and good practices… and I’m definitely not saying that we are “perfect” with our finances or get it right all the time. BUT, my family and I personally make these things OUR OWN habits and keep them up on a regular basis.
1. Debt Free People Budget
I know, I know. This might seem like the most basic (because it is), but I really cannot stress enough the importance of budgeting. Debt free people are people who know every. single. cent. that comes IN and goes OUT of their bank account. When every last penny is present, accounted for, and tracked, they don’t overdraft their accounts. They don’t incur silly and unnecessary fees. They are able to plan for every dollar and make their money work for them. It’s just SO important and the basis of ALL good money practices! Now, the thing with budgeting is: you control the budget. You decide what gets spent where… but once you set the budget, you stick to it.
2. They Save
Maybe to some, this could sound a little counterintuitive, but saving is SUCH an important part of being debt free. Even if it’s just saving a little bit each month, that little bit eventually adds up to alottabit. Debt free people are able to save for emergencies and those times that unexpected expenses come up. Or for the times when one loses a job and they’re out of work for six months… they’ve got money saved to take care of them during those times. Saving is a VITAL part of good financial health. Don’t know where to start? Start with an emergency fund of three to six months of expenses and go from there.
3. Debt Free People Closely Monitor Their Finances
When I was in huge debt and even when I was working to get myself out of debt, I NEVER checked my bank account. I was always way too scared to login and see how little money I had or how much I’d overdrafted or what fees I’d incurred. So, there were times when I had overdrafted my account four or five times and I’d incurred all these fees and I had no idea for a few days when all of a sudden my debit card was declined. Trust me, I KNOW FIRSTHAND the stress and anxiety that can come with checking your bank account and statements on a regular basis. It’s awful! BUT, people who are debt free or people who are good with money are the type of people that closely monitor ALL of their activity in their bank account and on their financial statements.
My husband logs into our bank account EVERY DAY and he notices if even ONE cent is off. He can tell right away if there’s a funky transaction that doesn’t look right, or if a fee got charged that shouldn’t be there, or if a restaurant put in the wrong dollar amount on the check, etc. And consequently, he’s got me in the same habit… I’m always paying attention to our statements and looking at them line for line. Once it’s become habit, it is a whole lot less stressful!
4. Debt Free People Give Generously
We give because God gave – and that includes finances. I am incredibly passionate about tithing to the local church (even when it might not make sense), and giving generously to charitable organizations. And I’m incredibly passionate about giving cheerfully. I LOVE GIVING!
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. -2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Being generous with your money makes you appreciate it that much more. I was always someone who “wanted” to give, but came up with excuses why I couldn’t. Finally, when I decided I need to make a big change and take ahold of my money, I started giving… EVEN when I didn’t really have money to give. And suddenly, my entire perspective, attitude, and outlook on money changed. Now I LOVE to give. WE love to give. Whether it is our monthly tithe to our local church, or our monthly Compassion International sponsorships, we truly love to give.
It gives us no greater joy than to bless someone or something with our finances. We look forward to writing the tithe check every month. Debt free people are generous with their money.
5. Debt Free People Are Goal Setters
People who want to win with their money are people who set goals, create a plan of attack, and execute that plan. It’s vital to set financial goals – at ANY stage in your personal finances. Whether it’s to BECOME debt free, save for a car or house, save for retirement, buy that big TV you’ve wanted, go on that trip,etc… goal setting is vital because it makes you value your money even more!
6. Debt Free People Are Patient
You’re rarely going to find a debt free person who is a chronic impulse buyer or spender. (Unless they’re like bajillionaires and money is of no concern to them… haha!) Most debt free people are going to be people who are wise with their purchases, are thoughtful with their purchases, and take the time to shop around, pray about, or wait before they spend that money. Impulse purchases just rarely happen… When you’re looking to save or spend money wisely… you pretty much take impulse purchases out of the picture.
Now what do you think?
What habits of debt free people have you seen? Do you have any good financial habits that you try to practice yourself? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!