10 Steps to Financial Freedom

Count your blessings as you consider these solid fiscal practices. Now's the time to get back to the basics of managing your finances.

Here's a practical Top 10 List of things you can do right now to get started on the path to financial freedom. Just for fun, we'll count down instead of up.

10. Build a budget. A budget lets you figure out why there's always "month left over at the end of your money." Setting up a realistic budget should be the foundation for all of your financial decisions. Without a budget, your financial objectives are nothing more than wishful thinking.

9. Give it away. Set your priorities straight by putting generosity at the top of your budget. God has given each of us a remarkable capacity to give. And we all give to something - whether we realize it or not. Even selfish people give away their time and money as they "worship" the things they value.

One of the most important

One of the most important, if not the most important thing we need to remember is that everything we have really belongs to God. When we give, especially to God's kingdom work, we show that we value the Lord above all else. So loosen up those purse strings; it will help loosen the grip money might have on your heart.

8. Reduce your use. Don't use your credit cards so much. Contrary to what you may have heard, credit cards aren't evil, it's their misuse that's the problem. That's why it's important to develop self-discipline. If out-of-control spending is a problem, cut up your credit cards.

7. Get a grip on your spending. Spending, especially for indulgences, doesn't lift depression. It's no secret that a key factor in achieving financial freedom is spending less money than you make. But even if you already do that, there's usually room for improvement. We tend to equate out-of-control spending with big purchases, but often it's the little things that'll put you in debt.

6. Save money. The flip side of spending less is saving more. There's no trick to saving money. It's really a simple matter of spending less than you make and setting money aside. Be sure to budget your savings, just like you would any other expense. Think of your savings as money you pay yourself. This money can then be used for large purchases or to cover an unexpected expense - those life emergencies that inevitably catch us off-guard.

5. Cook a meal. One great way to spend less is to eat at home more often. Cooking your own meals gives you better control of what you spend on food and, as a bonus, better control of your portions and caloric intake. So, it's a healthy choice all around.

In addition to a slimmer waistline and smaller budget, you may find it's fun to cook. If you're married, share the meal prep duties, and if you have kids get them involved, too. Countless families have discovered the joy of cooking and sharing meals together at home when it's done as a team.

4. Get in the car. Take a local vacation this year. When the economy took a turn a few years ago, "stay-cations" became the rage. Rather than traveling to some far-off, expensive get-away destination, families discovered interest- ing things to do close to them. Without the cost of airfare, hotel rooms, and rental cars, you'll have more money to spend on activities your whole family can enjoy. Wherever you are, other people are likely traveling long distances to see things near you.

3. Don't keep up with the Joneses. They're in debt, too! So far, most of the items on this list have been suggestions for things you can do, or not do, to get a handle on your finances, but financial freedom is about more than just behavior modification. To make lasting change, it's important to address what's in our hearts.

The Book of Ecclesiastes records that Solomon tried everything to achieve happiness through wealth and possessions. He failed miserably. Solomon learned that the secret of contentment lies not in getting enough stuff, or even the right stuff, but in recognizing God as our Provider, and cultivating a thankful heart.

2. Keep the "ultimate driving machine," the one that's paid for. Some people buy new cars because they don't budget for repairs on the car they own. When it breaks down, they're stuck. Make car maintenance and repair part of your budget. When it comes to the cars we drive, it's especially true. Your goal should be to make a car last as long as possible (10 or 15 years would be great).

With tender loving care, it's not an unreasonable goal with today's cars. To keep your car running all those years, you'll need to baby it with maintenance and repairs. Plan for those expenses.

1. Pray each day before you pay. Emotional and spiritual balance will lead to financial freedom. Ask God to guide you and give you strength to follow the first nine steps. The New Testament tells us, "Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thess. 5:18). Don't be resentful for what you don't have. Instead, be grateful for what God has provided.

This article is courtesy of HomeLife magazine.

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Chuck Bentley has been a guest speaker addressing churches, business leaders, and radio listeners on biblical financial topics for over a decade. He serves as CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Chuck and his wife, Ann, live near Knoxville and have four sons, a daughter-in-law, and three grandchildren.