The holiday season has begun and we are spending on Christmas gifts, cards, food, trees, decorations, parties, party clothes, travel, and more. Did you know Americans spent $730 billion last year at Christmas? Many things will be different because of Covid, but what are some tips for good financial stewardship during these potentially lean times? What does the Bible say about our finances?
It All Belongs to God
Job 41:11 (NIV)
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.
Leviticus 25:23 (NIV)
23 “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.”
We are Simply Managers or Stewards
We are only managing what God has given us. This is first explained in the beginning of the Bible:
Genesis 2:15 (NIV)
15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
Psalms later tells us the relationship between God’s creation and humanity’s management:
Psalm 8:6-8 (NIV)
6 “You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their[a] feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.”
When I first moved out on my own I learned so much about budgets and living on only what I made. Of course as we get older and start purchasing houses, cars, and add student loans, weddings, babies, and more, it gets complicated! I shared our financial story in a previous post, To Tithe or Not to Tithe. We finally started giving our finances over to God in 2008/2009 and only wish we had done it sooner! But we can’t change the past! So make today count and start taking baby steps to financial freedom if you haven’t done so already! It’s not too late!
5 Tips for Financial Stewardship During the Holidays
- Set a Holiday Budget
“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”—Luke 14:28–30
“Jesus uses this example to make the point that he isn’t out recruiting followers under false pretenses. If you come to him, he wants you to count the cost and consider the sacrifice. He uses the example of a man who begins a building project without considering how much it is going to cost him, and before he is finished, he’s run out of money. ” (CDF Capital)
“It’s obvious from the story that Jesus intends the audience to instantly recognize how foolish of an act this is. This should be a lesson to us that even a largely uneducated peasant audience knows that you don’t start a project without counting the cost first.” (CDF Capital)
So why would we approach the potentially expensive holiday season that comes EVERY YEAR without a plan?
Figure out what you want to spend total for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Christmas Cards/photo sessions, gifts, parties, holiday clothes/hair, etc., and travel. Then break it down by each item. If you spend less in one area, you can allocate it towards another area. And vice versa, if you overspend in one area, then deduct from some other items.
Making a list of who you are buying gifts for and dollar amounts for each controls the spending big time! Example: Say I want to spend $100 total on Christmas gifts. I have baby, husband, grandma and grandpa to purchase for. I want to allocate $25 each. I think it can be fun to have budgets and get creative on how I want to stretch that dollar amount to bless that individual as much as I can.
I often just make simple budgets in an excel spreadsheet. Even writing it down on paper would work! For the more technology savvy, try Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar Budgeting App. We used Mint.com in the past but I did not love it. About a year ago we switched to the Every Dollar App and I greatly prefer it! I use the app to not only keep track of where all our money is going, but also to budget.
2. Less is More
Don’t feel pressured to fulfill every desire of your kid’s heart. They will truly enjoy playing with just a couple items instead of being overwhelmed with 20 gifts. You can only really play with one item at a time. It saves on clutter around the house, and helps the bank account. We know that our kids will be blessed by extended family, so we only purchase our kids a couple items at Christmas time. And periodically throughout the year we go through their rooms and throw out broken toys, or donate toys that are in good condition but not played with anymore.
3. Involve the Kids
Each year we also work with the kids to figure out how much money they have to spend and put together a budget. We use Dave Ramsey’s Smart Money Smart Kids advice and allow them to earn commissions throughout the year on different chores and babysitting duties. So around September/October we start reminding the girls that Christmas is coming and to be careful with their spending so they can buy Christmas gifts later in the fall.
Then when the time comes, we count their savings, write down a list of who they want to buy gifts for and then divide their savings between those people. They may only have $1-3 dollars available per person, so we often go to the Dollar Tree and do their Christmas shopping. Then they wrap their gifts and get so much satisfaction at Christmas handing out their gifts using their hard earned money.
During the process they learned about giving, hard work, and saving. And they appreciate more all the work that others put into their Christmas – including the budgeting, shopping, and wrapping!
4. No Debt
Pay with only the cash you have. Absolutely NO CREDIT CARDS! The Bible talks a lot about avoiding debt!
Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)
7 The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
If you don’t have much cash, get creative!
- Have the family do a white elephant gift exchange and only purchase for one person.
- Give coupons to do a service like mow their grass, babysit, clean their house, etc.
- Are you crafty or handy? Perhaps you can make quilts or blankets with old fabric or yarn? Or make something else with materials you have on hand or can get inexpensively? Or draw/paint a picture?
- Can you cook or bake something? When I was in college and didn’t have much cash, I baked a massive amount of cookies and gave those out as gifts.
Another tip is to add money to a Christmas fund throughout the year, so when the time comes, you already have savings ready to go for the holidays!
5. Give Generously
Everything we have belongs to God. Let Him influence your spending and giving. Many people and organizations rely on donations this time of year – where do you feel the Holy Spirit nudging you to give? Remember that we are just stewards of what God has given us. It all belongs to Him. I have never regretted donating – I have only regretted when I didn’t give or give as generously as God was prompting me. Know of any hurting families that need some help? Perhaps a newly divorced parent? Or a family going through tremendous health issues? Or a family impacted financially by COVID?
Acts 20:35 (NIV)
35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)
16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Proverbs 28:27 (NIV)
27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
Here are a few suggestions for a more in depth study on wise financial stewardship:
- The Bible! It references money hundreds of times!
- Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money, as well as his numerous other books and resources
- Dave Ramsey’s article on Christmas Budgets
- Dave Ramsey is on the radio!
- CDF Financial has great articles on Christian money principles and stewardship
No gifts are worth all the stress of overspending and debt. Give yourself a gift this year with no debt after the holidays! You will set yourself up for a better 2021. Involve the kids in your holiday financial stewardship process, as well as respond to the Holy Spirit when He nudges you to give this season. You will not regret it!
As Dave Ramsey says, “Live Like No One Else!”