A lot of times I get asked, “How much should I put into my 401k?”, “Where should I open a savings accounts?”, or “How do I start investing?” But before I can answer any of those questions, I suggest backing up the train. Choo choo! The answers to those questions will depend on how you answer these 2 questions.
1) What are your goals?
Do you want to get out of debt? Do you want to buy a home? Do you want to retire by a certain age? Be able to sleep through the night without stressing about money? Donate more? Be able to send your kids to college or pay for their wedding?
Defining our goals can be hard! Often when I ask people this question, they say, “I haven’t thought past this year,” or “I’m just trying to get through this season and then I’ll think about the future.”
Of course, invite God into these conversations. It’s a dialogue between you and Him. You could just say, “God I don’t know what you want me to do and I’m just letting you know that it’s stressing me out.” You don’t have to leave the conversation with answers! Bring Him into the struggle, the pain – He knows how to thrive there!
Recently, I listened to Leah Darrow’s episode on the 1Girl Revolution podcast. She said, basically, that our problem is that we don’t dream big enough. She’s giving everyone permission to dream bigger because God wants us to see what’s possible with Him. That doesn’t necessarily mean bigger house, bigger car, bigger you-name-it, etc., though it could. Rather what have you always said you never could achieve or never would start doing because you didn’t think it was possible?
2) What are you willing to sacrifice to achieve them?
Unless we have an endless supply of money, there are going to be things that we want to do, but can’t afford to do throughout our entire lives. That’s just life. Actually, I think that’s a really freeing concept. There is a limit on Earth, but not in Heaven.
As one of the cardinal virtues, prudence can help us to rationally decide what is worth sacrificing. It’s knowing how to choose rightly. I like how Catholic News Agency puts it: “With prudence, we look at every decision in light of the ultimate goal, that is, goodness and happiness.”
Saint Thomas Aquinas says, “The prudent man considers things afar off, in so far as they tend to be a help or a hindrance to that which has to be done at the present time.”
The prudent man considers things afar off, in so far as they tend to be a help or a hindrance to that which has to be done at the present time.
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Let’s say you want to buy a house in the next 5 years. You’ve done research on the down payment and closing costs. You’ve determined you’ll need about $50,000 in cash. If you don’t already have that amount saved, what are you doing to get there? Does your spending reflect someone who’s saving for a home? For example, if you’re consistently spending $600 per month eating out, are you willing to give some or all of that up so that you can save for a house?
This is going to look different for everyone. I can’t stress that enough. It will look completely different because we all are in different situations. You might have student loans. You might have credit card debt. You might have an auto loan. You might have all 3. You might make 6 figures; you might make $30,000 or less. And you might be somewhere in the middle.
Regardless, the first step to knowing what you’re willing to sacrifice is to know what your monthly responsibilities are and where you can make cuts. Your utility payments are a must, but a subscription streaming service isn’t. That doesn’t mean you have to get rid of it, but if it meant the difference between achieving and not achieving your goal, would you give it up?
If it’s hard for you to decide, think of it another way. If the IRS came in and was going to take everything away from you, what’s the one thing you can’t let go of that is also good/valuable to you and leads you towards your goal?
Sometimes sacrifice involves delaying or rethinking the very goal you’re aiming for. Maybe you have to push back your home purchase so that you have more time to save money, or maybe you realize you don’t really want it that much.
What are your goals? What are you willing to sacrifice for them?