3 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress This Christmas

News You Can Use: 3 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress This Christmas

Christmas is one of the great “budget-busters” of the year, and can be a major source of financial stress for your congregation. Good $ense came across this article with a few practical tips that you and your congregation might find helpful to minimize financial stress and provide greater opportunity to focus on the real Reason for the Season.

3 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress This Christmas

The Christmas season is finally here. Now that Thanksgiving is over it’s socially acceptable to put up your Christmas tree, decorate the outside of your house, sing Christmas carols and more. That also means it’s time finish your Christmas gift shopping too, if you haven’t already.

While Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time of year, for some it’s a time filled with worry and stress about finances. Instead of eagerly awaiting Christmas morning, some people are dreading their incoming credit card bills in January instead.

But Christmas doesn’t have to put you in debt, or ruin a joyous time of year. Here are three ways you can avoid financial stress this Christmas.

Have a Minimalist Christmas
This year will be my first minimalist Christmas. I’ve narrowed down my gift-giving list by quite a bit and I even got my family on board with having a much smaller Christmas this year. We decided to set a limit of one gift per person for our immediate family. I realize this tip won’t help some of you with very large families, but for us it works. There are only four of us, so a one gift limit is pretty reasonable.

The one gift limit we set will reduce the amount of money we spend on gifts, the amount of wrapping paper and other waste from wrapping gifts, and the amount of time spent shopping, wrapping gifts and unwrapping gifts. Instead, we’ll have more time to enjoy each other’s company and the gifts we do receive.

Set Spending Limits to Avoid Financial Stress
Another great way to avoid financial stress this Christmas is to set a spending limit. You can set a budget for yourself this Christmas for everything, including gifts, holiday groceries, decorations and more. But it can be harder to stick to a Christmas budget if those around you don’t seem to want to save money. This can cause you to want to blow your Christmas budget by buying more extravagant gifts, or by going over-the-top with other Christmas spending.

If you don’t think you can stick to your spending limit without some help, break down the financial barrier and tell your friends and family of your desire to spend less this Christmas. Chances are that they too are worried about their finances during this expensive time of the year.

Don’t stop at the spending limit either. Find ways to save, or get money back, on your spending. You can use TopCashBack to get up to 8.5% cash back on all your Amazon purchases. You can also use a site like Swagbucks to earn cash back if you go through their shopping portals.

Suggest a Secret Santa or Other Gift Exchange
For large groups of people, like extended family and groups of friends, you can suggest having a Secret Santa or other gift exchange so you don’t have to spend as much money or buy as many gifts. This will also help you to feel like less of a Scrooge and ease the financial burden of giving Christmas gifts.

If you don’t want to have a Secret Santa, there are lots of other ways to have a gift exchange. In years past, my extended family has had a gift exchange where everyone had to bring one gift with a spending limit of $20. Then we played a game to decide who got to keep which gift.

Another idea is to have a name drawing but not keep it a secret. Each person will be responsible for buying a gift for the person who’s name they drew, but it won’t be a secret. This is a fun way to see how well your family members really know each other.
Christmas doesn’t have to be a financial burden. There are lots of ways you can cut down on Christmas spending, and clutter, so you don’t feel a financial strain.

Taken from http://wisedollar.org/financial-stress-christmas/, accessed on December 3, 2016.

Thankful Stewardship

Truths That Transform: Thankful Stewardship

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV

We’re familiar with the instruction of Scripture that tells us that our attitude in giving is what matters to God: “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 9:7) This cheerfulness comes as a result of an attitude of thanksgiving. But thanksgiving isn’t just a mindset for giving – it’s an approach to all areas of stewardship.

Scripture teaches us the importance of a pervasive spirit of thanksgiving; here are just a couple examples:

“Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” — Colossians 3:17

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7.

So, how does thanksgiving apply specifically to each area of stewardship? Following are a few ideas:

Earning: With all the stress that often accompanies our jobs (and with our sometimes unbalanced lifestyle between work and personal lives), it can be counterintuitive to be thankful for our work. But work itself is a gift from God, and our ability to produce income also comes from him: “Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). The purpose of this instruction to Israel was to keep them from becoming conceited in their wealth and forgetting to be thankful to God. Gratitude for God’s provision of work, health, and the ability to provide for our families is a great way to remember that all we have comes from God.

Giving: Of course, gratitude forms the basis for our giving. Our gratitude for the ability to earn overflows into our giving. God is concerned more about the attitude of our hearts in giving than about the number on a check: “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 9:7). Ideally, our giving should produce the grateful joy that we see in Israel at the giving of the leaders for the construction of the Temple: The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord. David the king also rejoiced greatly (1 Chronicles 29:9). This kind of wholehearted, free, cheerful giving is only possible out of a heart of gratitude.

Saving: A heart of gratitude helps us to save wisely without crossing the line into hoarding. Paul equates greed with idolatry (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5). Jesus warned against greed in the parable of the bigger barns (Luke 12:15-21). Gratitude reminds us that God is the source of all that we have, and leads us away from hoarding and to being rich toward God (Luke 12:21). At the same time, gratitude to God as the source of all we have keeps us from squandering his provision, as the prodigal son did with his inheritance (Luke 15:13). This gratitude leads to the wisdom that guides us into prudent saving (Proverbs 6:6-8; 21:20).

Debt: Gratitude for God’s provision teaches us to be content, and that contentment is a great protection against the lure of materialism that can lead us into debt. Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13). Paul’s gratitude for the Philippians’ financial support (Philippians 4:10) further feeds his attitude of contentment, as he sees how God continually provides his needs. Paul’s gratitude to God and to the Philippians enables him to focus more on what he has than what he doesn’t have. This same focus can keep us from spending ourselves into debt.

Spending: Our lifestyle choices are also impacted by gratitude. In the same way that contentment affects our likelihood of going into debt, it also affects our spending. Paul wrote to Timothy, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:6-8). The writer to the Hebrews echoes this idea: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5). The person who is grateful for God’s provision of a working, safe car is less likely to be enticed by marketers to buy a new, more expensive car.

A mindset of gratitude establishes a framework for stewardship rooted in all that God has done and continues to do in our lives – a powerful counterweight to the pull of the culture.

Stewardship of the Gospel

December 2016 Good $ense Newsletter: Stewardship of the Gospel

Dear Good $ense Friends,
In the midst of this season in which the value of relationships is most clearly brought to our consciousness, we can’t help but be saddened by how much our behavior inhibits the deepening of those relationships. We over-busy ourselves and over spend ourselves – two sure recipes for relational neutrality, if not disaster. We further complicate things by giving and receiving more ‘stuff’ that we really don’t need and often don’t even have the space for. And that feeds a vicious cycle.

Christmas can be a challenging time in which to be a good steward for sure.  So, the question of how one can be a steward in the midst of Christmas is worth wrestling with!

If we pause for a moment we must realize that the most important thing we are charged to be the steward of is the gospel!

So does what we teach in G$ about the stewardship of money in the five financial areas of life apply to stewardship of the gospel?  Try these thoughts on for size:

  1. Earning: The gospel, the good news of Christ, isn’t anything we earn. It is a grace gift – but we are saved by grace for works! Working as unto the Lord (Col.3:23) takes on new meaning in this context.
  2. Giving: Why sure, I can and should share the gospel generously and joyfully (and sensitively and not just with words). And what better time to do so than during the Christmas season!
  3. Saving: Yep – I should store up the good news in my mind and heart so as to be prepared for the unexpected opportunity to share it or the unexpected hardship that otherwise threatens to leave me embittered or discouraged.
  4. Debt: Oh my – we are indebted to the gospel! But it’s not an onerous, interest-bearing debt on a depreciating item. It’s good debt on the appreciating (growing) love of God which we can enjoy and share… it’s OK to leverage this kind of debt.
  5. Spending/lifestyle: I’d say we’re being stewards of the gospel when we live with moderation and discipline, guided by a spending plan so that resources available to support God’s work in the world can be maximized.

We don’t need to learn any new stewardship principles in order to be good stewards of the gospel – we just need to remind ourselves that it’s the most important thing we’ve been entrusted to steward and then be about applying what we already know!

Have a joy-filled and blessed season of sharing the good news that God so loved the world that Christ was born…
Your partner in the stewardship challenge,

Sid Yeomans
President, Good $ense Movement
Transforming Finances!  Transforming Lives!

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