What you can and can’t afford
BY RUSS CROSSON AND KELLY TALAMO
GREG AND ANNIE COULD TALK about anything. Communication was a strong point in their marriage, but they struggled when it came to discussing their budget. The root of the problem was simple — they had different definitions of “freedom.” For Greg, freedom was having whatever they wanted. For Annie, freedom was having what they needed without debt.
Tension grew with every budget discussion. Annie listed their monthly expenses and found ways to reduce them. Greg countered with their combined monthly income, citing that they could tithe and save, even if they kept spending the same amount.
“Listen, Annie!” Greg once shouted in frustration. “It’s right here on paper — combined income of $110,000. We can easily afford what we have. You should be thankful for the blessings we can afford.”
“Blessings?” Annie questioned. “Is that what you call $1,000 in monthly payments? All income is a blessing, Greg. But going into debt for things we don’t need is voluntary slavery.”
How could two intelligent people have such different perspectives? They viewed their money through different lenses. Greg looked at the numbers through the world’s lens; Annie saw them through the lens of God’s Word. Have you ever heard yourself agree with Greg’s perspective? Unfortunately, many of us have been fooled into believing that “as long as we can make the payments, we’re fine.” But, that’s a lie.
It’s easy to minimize the power of debt because your income is greater than your payments. On paper, that makes total sense because we have a sufficient “margin” for the extras. But our lives are never lived on paper. They’re lived in the reality of car repairs, unexpected expenses, medical bills, and more.
The Borrower and the Lender
Proverbs 22:7 reveals an important economic principle: “The borrower is slave to the lender.” But, as much as we say we believe God’s Word, we sometimes turn a deaf ear to this verse — and look to the world instead.
Behind every debt is a master. The fact that we’re able to pay on time doesn’t make the lenders go away. It only makes them a little nicer to you. Try missing a monthly payment, and watch the lender’s attitude change. Quit paying a debt, and see how free you are.
Despite reality, most people don’t see monthly payments as a bad thing. They see they can make the payments, and they presume they always will. Why should anyone wait to have something, when they can buy it today with a loan?
People want to possess everything that once took their parents 30 years to build (but without 30 years of work). And they’re busy trying to keep up with their neighbors. They buy things, even if they can’t really afford them (“afford” meaning you can pay cash). As Will Rogers once said: “We spend money we don’t have [borrowed money] to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t even like.”