Living joyfully within your means can seem like an oxymoron when you’re a poor college student who can afford nothing but Ramen and oatmeal.
Money and finances can be large burdens– especially when you’re a young student family. Both patience and relationships are tested as you decide what to cut out of your lifestyle to minimize expenses. These trials are testing and real, but BYU Family Life professor Jeff Hill and Finance professor Bryan Sudweeks suggest that we see these
problems with a new perspective: “The single most important lesson [in finance] is the importance of bringing Christ into our personal and family finances.”
In Professors Hill and Sudweek’s book Fundamentals of Family Finance: Living Joyfully within your Means, the core text for SFL 260: Family Finance, we learn that finance is not only something we deal with in mortality, but that it is something that is based in gospel principles and will affect us for eternity. While money does not buy true eternal happiness, in the words of Professor Hill, “money makes important things possible” to help us grow in this life and prepare for the future, such as family resources and education.
Keeping an Eternal Perspective
Finance isn’t just about getting rich, it’s about “prudent financial management so you can more fully bless yourself, your family, and others.” But again, where do we draw the line between focusing on money and finances because we need to and focusing on worldly possessions instead of the Kingdom of God?
According to Hill and Sudweeks, the key is keeping an eternal perspective.
If we make it a point to remember that everything belongs to God and that we are simply the stewards over the things he blesses us with, we will remember to be grateful and responsible with what we have. When it comes down to it, our finances and the stewardship of resources should be the “temporal application of spiritual principles.” We have agency to decide how we use our resources, and we will are accountable for these actions.
In summary, “with very dollar you spend, you choose which perspective you will take– either the eternal perspective or the world’s materialistic perspective. The sooner you understand that managing your finances is part of living the gospel of Jesus Christ, the greater your motivation will be to obey the commandments and get your financial house in order…. With an eternal perspective, we can be laying up for ourselves true “treasures in heaven” while simultaneously planning for our careers and supporting out families.”
A Family Ordeal
“Share finances as equal partners in your marriage” counsel Hill and Sudweeks. You, your spouse, and your current or future children will all have different opinions on how to use resources and money. While it may seem easier to do it all yourself, this responsibility must be shared equally between you and your spouse. Budget as a family, and be honest and transparent about you financial past, plans, and current spending. As stated by David O. McKay, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” No amount of extra time or money will make up for losing your family.
Also, as you learn financial principles yourself, share and teach them to your spouse and children; the principles of hard work, thrifty living, and saving can benefit your present and future. Families who love each other share financial wisdom.
Living Within your Means
There are things that we really want and there are things that we really need. When figuring out how to have these things, it is detrimental that you budget according to your/your family’s needs and the money and resources that are currently available to you. This might mean that you don’t drive the nicest car now (or drive a car at all), but that you live comfortably from the resources and money you currently have. Sacrificing what you want now will often allow you to have what you want most in the future. As Robert D. Hales said, “the three most loving words are ‘I love you,’ and the four most caring words for those we love are, ‘We can’t afford it.'”
Prioritizing your spending and finding happiness in your current situation is how you go from living within your means to living joyfully within your means.
Plan for the Future
Planning is essential to successful finances and preparedness. To plan for the array of financial situations that you will or may face in life
- Make family goals (then work to achieve them!)
- Have food storage, a 72-hour kit, and monetary savings
- Invest “early, consistently, and wisely” and remember “TTT: Things Take Time”
- Get insurance to protect yourself and your family
- Make a plan to minimize and eliminate any debt
- Establish a habit of saving and set money aside every time you get paid.
Share with Others
Of his own young family, Professor Sudweeks shared that they “learned the importance of giving: that God shovels it to us, and we shovel it back (and God has a bigger shovel).” Prioritize giving back to others and the Lord by paying your tithing and contributing a generous fast offering. Like Professor Sudweeks shared, God is constantly shoveling blessings and resources our way, he just asks that we shovel a little back. Likewise, remember the law of consecration; all that we have is God’s and we have a responsibility and calling to be responsible stewards and efficiently share our resources with others.
“It is not so difficult to accomplish your monetary and spiritual goals if you build your finances upon a firm foundation: the gospel of Jesus Christ.” As we work to progress in all aspects in our lives, we will find joy as we support and uplift ourselves and others through responsible and gospel-based financial principles and practice.