Recognize this number? 11,208,076,192,300.55 No, it’s not the official number of remixes to K-Drama’s “Air Jordan” joint, although I’m starting to think its close. Tag a dollar sign in front of it and, according to Wikipedia, you’ve got the total amount of the U.S. federal debt as of May 1, 2009.
Our Government has done what a lot of us have done: gone into serious debt. There is no need to remind you of the current economic downturn in the United States and other Countries around the world. Bankruptcy, unemployment and the fear of, “What’s next?” weigh heavy on the minds of many. In fact, I’m convinced that some of you reading this right now are going through an economic crisis of your own. You’ve been steadily praying, asking God to continue to provide for you and your family, while looking for answers on how to make ends meet. While I cannot promise this article will make it less financially stressful, I can promise it won’t be difficult to comprehend.
Before we get started though, I know you’re asking what type of qualifications I have to give financial advice. This is the part where you would expect me to start dropping my educational background from a big Ivy-league school or to talk about my career in financial advising. I’ve got none of that. In fact, the only thing I can offer as a qualification is to say I’m just an average kat trying to make it. In college, my wife and I worked two jobs (each) and went to school full-time. After we got married at 21 we found out real quick that money was tight. Our paychecks stayed the same, but our debt level continued to rise. The jobs we had didn’t pay all that well. As a part-time youth minister, I was making $80…EVERY TWO WEEKS! As a result, we had a grip of debt in the past – I still do in some areas – but things have gotten better for us. In fact, since October of 2006, my wife and I have paid off almost $35,000 in debt from our student loans, credit cards and car notes. I challenge you to follow these tips and see if your paycheck stretches a little further than it did before…help save Ben Franklin.
Although it sounds counter-productive, the first step in saving is GIVING. Yeah, I know. “How are you going to save anything when you’re spending?” God has some incredible answers to that question. Check them out in Malachi 3:6-15. When you tithe (giving ten percent of your first-fruits, or whatever God has called you to give, back to God), give in obedience and love, not out of ritual. Giving is designed to be a joy, though that joy is not always meant for you. Invest into ministries you feel led to give to. You can sow into anything from your favorite hip-hop ministry to the Red Cross; just pay God before you pay yourself.
Avoid using credit. Live within your means. Many of the statistics I’ve read say the average credit card debt amount per household is anywhere from $7,500-$10,000. If you cannot pay for something in cash, DON’T BUY IT! I’m not talking about making the decision to starve your family or use the credit card. I am talking about passing on those new kicks when you already got shoes on your feet. If you already have credit card debt, pay your highest balance card off first. Let’s put it to paper…if you owed $3,000 on your credit card, at a 13.9 APR, making monthly payments of $100, it would take you 37 months to pay off your credit card. Talk about being a slave to something…that new watch (or ladies, purse) will have you chained to your credit card logo for a minute.
Six letters and one period: B-U-D-G-E-T. This is probably the most difficult tasks of all. It’s hard putting together all your expenses, especially when they change from month to month. The wifey and I do a cash budget. We each get $40 each week for food, entertainment, etc. When that money is gone, it’s over – no excuses. Budgets are an incredible tool to see exactly how much you’re spending each month and where. Do you really need to be dropping $100 in CDs from various bookstores when you could be going to HolyCultureDownload.com and spending $50 (shameless plug)? Analyzing your budget will help you trim the fat and keep your wallet from getting skinny!
Here’s a dope concept…SAVE your money. You really never know when things will go south. My career might seem to be on lock, but what if I get injured in an accident? What if my refrigerator stops working? As previously stated, I’m not a financial expert, but I would recommend keeping at least $1,500 (again, or more depending on your circumstances) into some account that you can access at any point, without penalty. Once you are without debt, put back at least five to ten percent (if not more) of your wages into some sort of savings account, each paycheck. If you start doing this before you’re clear of the bondage of debt, you may actually be losing money. You may be saving at 2.75%, but have a 19.99% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on your credit card. Pay the plastic off, then save the paper.
Pray and seek help from others. Some people feel uncomfortable about going to God with financial concerns. I am a firm believer in taking EVERYTHING before the throne of Jesus. Believe it or not, He does care about your concerns. He could show you other things more important than your finances, but you might not see that until you go to Him. When I really got serious about cutting our debt, I did something I don’t normally do: I read. I came across a book that gave me a starting point and some direction. Who knew that in less than three years we would be able to drop $35,000 toward our debts? If books aren’t your thing, there are a number of non-profit credit counseling agencies willing to help you and your specific situation. Research them before giving them any information about your financial status…they could make it much worse.
When we only focus on our inabilities, we often completely miss the ability of God. He can give you the wisdom and the discipline you need to overcome your financial concerns and meet your financial goals. When you’re free of debt, don’t forget to call K-Drama and let him know you’re doing a “Zero Balance on ‘em” remix…he’ll appreciate the love!
As always, if you need guidance in finding additional resources pertaining to debt relief or just need prayer, please give your boy a shout!