Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Manage My Money?
HOW do you feel about money? Is it something to spend at will? Something to be saved or even hoarded? Knowing that their parents are there to provide for them, many youths, frankly, give little thought to money—other than how to spend it.
Nevertheless, you may not always have parents to serve as a safety net. Furthermore, the mere fact that you have an after-school job or even a sizable allowance does not mean you can afford to be careless with cash. Warns the Bible: “Have you caused your eyes to glance at it [money], when it is nothing? For without fail it makes wings for itself like those of an eagle and flies away toward the heavens.” (Proverbs 23:5) How can you prevent your money from ‘flying away’? First, you must appreciate what money is all about.
Money—Why So Valuable
Money is a means of exchange—and a powerful means at that. The Encyclopædia Britannica says that “money is the only completely liquid asset.” Your radio, for example, might be considered an asset (something of value). But imagine trying to trade or barter it for a simple loaf of bread. The radio may greatly exceed the value of the loaf. But if the bakery-shop owner doesn’t want your radio, he is unlikely to give you a loaf of bread for it. Your radio might just as well be worthless! Money, though, is almost universally respected.* It is thus quickly and easily exchangeable for whatever goods or services you desire.
Wisely, then, did Solomon say at Ecclesiastes 7:12 that “money is for a protection.” Money is thus a key to possessing life’s necessities and also many of life’s pleasures. As Solomon further said: “The table has its pleasures, and wine makes a cheerful life; and money is behind it all.”—Ecclesiastes 10:19, The New English Bible.
Yet, money is not always easy to come by. Most parents do not have unlimited sources of cash; they must work hard for what they share with you. Asked Solomon: “For what does a man come to have for all his hard work?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22) Your parents may get little satisfaction—and little pay—for their hard work. Why, many parents work from morning to night just to provide their families with the barest of necessities!
Money, then, should not be taken for granted. It should be viewed with respect and handled wisely. One way to do that is to learn to budget your money.
The Value of Budgeting
A budget is simply a means of managing the spending and saving of your money. ’Teen magazine of May 1985 observed: “Finding out where all of your dollars are ‘disappearing’ to is the first step toward gaining control over your money and putting yourself on a budget that will work for you.” So first make a list of all your expected expenses—lunch, transportation, entertainment, and so forth. Next, keep track of your actual expenditures for a month or so. Now you are in a position to make some reasonable and realistic spending and saving goals.
Once these are established, you might try taking some envelopes and labeling them according to each category of expenses. One envelope, for example, might be labeled “Lunch Money,” while another might be labeled for some future purchase, such as “New Blouse” or “New Shirt.” When you receive your allowance or salary, divide the money among the envelopes according to your established spending goals. When expenses come up, pay for them from the appropriate envelopes.*
Have you tried to follow a budget and failed? You are not alone. Leah, a young adult, said: “I tried budgeting my money on a number of occasions, but I don’t stick to budgets very well.” However, she admits: “When I’m on a budget, I save better. I don’t buy things that I don’t need.” The key to success? Self-discipline. Make a resolve and hold to it! Feel free, also, to pray to Jehovah to help you to control any loose spending habits.—Luke 11:13.
Interestingly, the apostle Paul suggested that Christians in Corinth “budget” some of their money, saying: “Every first day of the week let each of you at his own house set something aside in store.” (1 Corinthians 16:1, 2) The money was then contributed to a special fund for needy Christians. No doubt it took real self-discipline for those Corinthian Christians to follow Paul’s suggestion, but the blessings made such effort worth it!
You too will no doubt benefit from sticking to a budget. A youth named Avian says: “I was like the one mentioned at Proverbs 21:5, “hasty” and ‘heading for want’ before the next payday. Budgeting makes me more responsible.”
Cautious With Credit
“Buy now, pay later!” urge many merchants. Used cautiously and intelligently, credit indeed has its place. Used recklessly, however, credit can become what a youth named Kevin calls “a form of slavery.”—Compare Proverbs 22:7.
For some youths, credit simply makes it too easy to purchase things they neither need nor can afford. And if you do not pay off your balance at the end of the month, you are charged interest on what you owe. The longer you take to pay, the more an item ends up costing you. In the long run, therefore, it is cheaper to save up for what you need and pay for it with cash.
‘A Penny Saved . . . ’
A young woman named Phyllis observed: “We never know when hardships may come upon us and we will need to have money saved up.” (Compare Ecclesiastes 9:11.) Indeed, you could get sick and be unable to hold a job. Your parents too could fall on hard times and be unable to pay you an allowance. It thus makes good sense to include in your budget an amount to set aside as savings. This can help you weather a financial storm more easily.
Now a piggy bank or a shoe box may seem like a smart place to store your cash. Jesus, though, spoke of putting money into a bank where it can earn interest and grow. (Matthew 25:27) Why not, then, discuss with your parents the advisability of opening your own savings account at a bank? You need not have a huge amount of cash to make a savings scheme work, although in some places a sufficient amount is required to avoid a service charge. The key to success is being regular in adding to your savings.
What, though, if your family is poor or you live in an economically disadvantaged land where youths rarely have their own spending money? Nevertheless, your family still has certain assets, meager though they might seem. But if your attitude toward family resources is ‘easy come, easy go,’ you work against your own and the family’s interests. Surely, you would not want to prove to be a “thankless one” when it comes to the things your parents work hard to provide.—Proverbs 29:21.
So show a responsible attitude toward money—even when you have little or no money of your own. You can, for example, avoid wasting things, such as food items. (See John 6:12, 13.) Treat hard-to-replace and expensive items, such as eyeglasses and school supplies, with respect. No doubt your parents will greatly appreciate your conscientiousness in this regard.
Proverbs 11:28 reminds us: “The one trusting in his riches—he himself will fall; but just like foliage the righteous ones will flourish.” Money should serve to care for our needs. But a Christian should not be preoccupied with getting rich. As a youth named Matthew puts it: “Money has its place, but it is not everything.” It is merely a tool, indeed, a “protection.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12) Learn to use it wisely, prudently. A future article will discuss how to use your money wisely to care for personal and family obligations.
One exception to this would be in lands where inflation has made the national currency all but worthless.
See the article “Budget Your Money—The Easy Way” appearing in the April 22, 1985, issue of Awake!
[Blurb on page 13]
“When I’m on a budget, I save better. I don’t buy things that I don’t need”
[Picture on page 14]
Responsible youths wisely save some of their money