We all know that money cannot make us happy, but let’s face it—it sure can make life more enjoyable! And while most of us don’t want to sound greedy or materialistic, we must admit that we tend to be a little happier when we don’t have to worry about money.
So, what is a proper attitude toward money? How much do we really need? How far should we go in order to make more? How do we discipline ourselves to spend it wisely? Should we feel guilty when we splurge? How important is it to save our money? Will it really make us happier to give some of it away?
Over 200 years ago, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, summed up his beliefs about money in three succinct points:“Gain all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can.” Even today, the basic points Wesley made still provide solid guidelines for maintaining a healthy relationship with money.
So, first let’s talk about making money: “Gain all you can.”
Reasons to Go for More
1. Growing your income moves you beyond barely making it.
If you’ve ever lived paycheck to paycheck, you know how scary it can be—money in, money out, holding your breath at the end of the month, hoping your bank account doesn’t dip into the hole. According to a 2012 Bankrate survey, 32% of Americans live this way, even when they don’t have to.
Dr. James G. Salmons, founder of the Success With Money website, believes “that people can become prosperous in America today (and in most other places in the world), even on a modest income.” Sometimes keeping your head above water may be the best you can do, but don’t think that’s necessarily how it should remain. Such an attitude can hinder you from gaining more money.
Keep learning. If you can improve yourself and make more money, then do so. Even Wesley expressed his amazement at people who allowed themselves to fall into a rut, never attempting to do more. He wrote: “You should be continually learning, from the experience of others, or from your own experience, reading, and reflection, to do everything you have to do better to-day than you did yesterday.”
Don’t be afraid to move forward. Earning more might allow you to sleep a little better at night.
2. Gaining more will help you avoid debt.
Another common attitude reflects the credit mentality—the got-to-have-it-now mentality. So many of us find it hard to wait to buy things we want for ourselves and for our loved ones. Financial experts agree that it really isn’t a good habit to buy now and plan to pay later. And many times, it is best to practice patience and wait until you can actually afford it. But sometimes it almost seems necessary to go ahead and buy a safer car, a house in a healthier environment, or to take a much needed vacation. In these instances, how easy it is to pull out your American Express! Gaining all you can will help you reach your goals without going into unnecessary debt.
3. More money makes you independent.
Are you still financially dependent on someone else? Part of taking responsibility for yourself involves moving toward financial independence. Independence may happen gradually, depending on your age and circumstances, but earning money, as soon as you can, propels you in the right direction. Remember that an honest job isn’t beneath you if you need to make your way in the world.
4. Increased income makes you a better provider.
Do others depend on you? Taking care of your family presents a huge responsibility and, honestly, takes plenty of money. Aside from the basic necessities of life, you want your loved ones to thrive. What if your pre-teen needs braces in order feel good about herself? If your son wants to pursue music, don’t you want to be able to afford quality lessons? What if there’s a medical issue that insurance doesn’t completely cover? Do your kids want to go to college? Do you and your wife need to go out for the sake of your marriage? Or maybe you have a parent or other family member that needs your assistance.
5. Gain all you can for the future.
Maybe you’re doing fine. Maybe you’ve got a great income, enough to provide everything you want and need. It’s wise to look ahead and save for emergencies, retirement, or other future scenarios. Or perhaps you have a substantial sum of money through an inheritance, a gift, or maybe even prize money. Good for you! No need to feel guilty. You have a great start in gaining all you can. On the other hand, don’t sit around doing nothing just because you can at the moment. Use your gift wisely while continuing to plan for the future (Read more about saving in part 2.)
Exceptions to the Rule
Gaining all you can doesn’t mean you love money so much that you will do anything to get more of it. As Wesley said, this rule does have exceptions.
- Do not gain all you can at the expense of your soul. In other words, resolve never to compromise your morals for more money. Illegal activities such as drug-dealing or robbing, jobs that require you to cheat others or to hurt them, a business that leads to the destruction of others’ morals….Unless you have no conscience, you won’t feel good about money acquired in these ways. Besides, your wrong-doings have a way of catching up with you in the end.
- Wesley also suggested that you don’t work at something at the expense of your mental well-being.
Maggie came home from her job crying almost every day. Her colleagues didn’t respect her, and those working under her leadership continued to undermine her authority. Maggie felt guilty at the thought of quitting since her family needed the extra money, but her husband finally insisted, “No job is worth your emotional breakdown,” he told her, “We don’t need the money that badly.”
Should you take a job that you simply don’t like? Wesley said that he could not make a living dealing with mathematics, “without being a Deist, if not an Atheist.” More money may not be worth making yourself miserable in a job that you hate.
On the other hand, at some point in your life, you'll probably have to work a job that you don’t particularly like. According to the 2013 Gallup State of the American Workplace report, 70% of Americans are unhappy with their work.
If you ever find yourself a part of the discontented majority, a change of attitude might save your mental well-being. Remind yourself that you won’t have this job forever. Do your best until you find something else or until you’ve finished the required education to enter your chosen career. Realize that no job is perfect. You wanted a job, right? You have one; don’t complain. Many people are struggling to find work in today’s economy.
- Finally, don’t gain all you can at the expense of your physical health.
Megan already had a job at the university where she was studying for a graduate degree. After buying her dream car, she struggled to make the payments, so she took an extra part-time job. After two months on a rigorous schedule of work and study, she found herself worn down and susceptible to every virus going around the campus. She realized that something had to change.
Be willing to work hard and do what is necessary for yourself and those who depend on you, but life is more than work. Sometimes we must learn to be content with what we have. Gain all you can, but not at the risk of your health.
Putting in the Time
Be honest: Do you tend to be lazy or to put tasks off until later? Then you’re merely sabotaging your efforts at doing well financially. Meeting goals in any kind of work depends on the proper attitude. Listen to Wesley one more time:
“Do not sleep or yawn over it: Put your whole strength to the work. Spare no pains. Let nothing be done by halves, or in a slight and careless manner. Let nothing in your business be left undone if it can be done by labor or patience.”
In other words, whatever your job, do your best—always. Laziness or procrastination won’t cut it.
Look around and you’ll see lots of people who expect to be supported by someone else without doing anything for themselves.
A high school art teacher once asked one of her students what career might interest him. He replied, “I want to be a draw-er.” Amused by his horrible grammar, but also thrilled about his possible interest, she said, “Oh! You want to be an artist!” “No,” the boy said, and in all seriousness, he explained, “I mean I want to be on the draw—you know, welfare.” How sad, but very true, that some people actually think depending on the government is a legitimate plan for gaining money. Yes, some people need help; let’s help them, but many people need to learn to help themselves rather than depending on others indefinitely.
Contrast that attitude with the attitude of another high school student, a young man who’s just entered the work force at a local fast food restaurant, “Today there’s too much emphasis on trying to get money for nothing—‘easy money’— trying to get rich quick without working hard and putting in your time,” he says, “Whatever happened to the idea that you give society something valuable and then you get paid in return?”
Determine for yourself that you’re going to gain all you can by contributing your skills and knowledge to society as you are able. Everyone has something to contribute, and it’s satisfying to get paid fairly for doing your part.
How much is too much?
Short answer: No amount is too much. Remember, our first principle from Wesley is to gain all you can, whatever that amount might be.
Dr. Salmons writes: “Some of us…grew up in an environment that caused us to feel as if having money was wrong. Honest and good people were not supposed to have money! That is…wrong-headed.”
The old saying that money is the root of all evil is actually a misquoted statement from the Bible. A more accurate translation is: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Notice that it says the love of money, not money itself, and that this love is merely one root of many which can lead to all kinds of evil.
Can you use money for evil? Of course, you can, but you can also use your money for good in many ways (see part 3) Possessing money isn’t evil. If one of your goals in life is to make lots of money, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that goal, as long as you earn it honestly.
Spend it Wisely
We make money, in part, so we can spend it—on things we need and want. In today’s society, it seems increasingly difficult to draw the line between needs and wants. Do you really need to buy potato chips at the store? Do you really need a computer upgrade? Do you really need the latest style of shoes? Of course, we buy many things that we don’t really need, but many things make life easier or more enjoyable or perhaps they just make us feel good about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with buying things that you merely want, but it’s important to take care of actual needs first.
No doubt, it does take some discipline (more for some people than others) to maintain wise spending patterns, but it’s a discipline well worth your time. Haphazard spending often leads to unnecessary debt (more on going into debt in part 2)
The basic practice for keeping your spending on track requires nothing more than a pencil and some paper, and yet many of us balk at starting this simple habit—keeping a budget.
Dave Ramsey, author of Financial Peace and other titles, and host of the nationally syndicated radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show, hails budgeting as one of the most important tools for achieving financial freedom, “When you see that a budget is just spending your money with intention, you'll actually experience more freedom than before. Many people say they've found even more money when they created a realistic budget and stuck with it,” writes Ramsey on his website, daveramsey.com, “Spend every dime on paper before the month begins,” he suggests.
Money is a tool. Gain all you can in life in order to meet your needs and desires and to meet those of the people who depend on you. Gain it responsibly and honestly as you make your contribution to society, and if you want to continue to have financial success, you need to spend your money wisely.
How do you know when to stop spending and start saving your money? When does spending become wasteful? How do you start saving money? See Part 2: Save All You Can in the money series.
Written by Beth Prassel-Sieg
- OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES -
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Save All You Can!
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Give All You Can!
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