Money, a virus and a world on lockdown

April 29th, 2020

Perhaps as never before, from February to March, we saw the world change in the most dramatic of ways. Virtually overnight, trillions of dollars were lost, regained and lost again as the stock market wavered with record-setting volatility. Hoarding toilet paper — of all commodities — became a thing, and truly a serious problem for many. We were driven into seclusion, our economy shut down, and many were forced to pivot on a dime to working from home. A growing number have, at least temporarily, lost their livelihoods. All this, of course, was brought on by the impact of the novel coronavirus. It’s amazing how a microscopic agent has the power to shut down the world’s economy. The virus is mightier than the pen or the sword!

How do you manage money in the wake of so many challenges and setbacks? Never has the necessity of planning ahead been more apparent.

If you don’t have cash in an emergency fund equal to at least three months of expenses readily available, this crisis will probably convince you to start building one as soon as we conquer COVID-19. (And we will, by the way; be of good courage!) For a more in-depth look at how to navigate a financial crisis, you may want to explore my new book, Growing through Disaster, from Abingdon Press. But for now I want to focus on one key practice that will immediately help your situation.

One advantage of being sequestered at home that I’ve observed is spending is actually way down. (Seriously, what do we have to spend money on, stranded as we are?) Besides a little food, my only purchase has been a can of tennis balls so my son and I can get a little fresh air and socially-distanced exercise. I have to credit my wife here. For years we have teased her about keeping her “squirrel stash” of food and other supplies, but her foresight is really paying off now. No mad dash for TP for us!

For decades I’ve been beating the same drum about following a set of five key biblical principles to find success at managing money. Today I want to focus on one aspect encompassed in principle five: Use a spending plan. 

Since we don’t know how long this crisis will go on, the financial (and yes, spiritual) discipline of tracking where you spend your money is critically important, perhaps now more than ever. 

Proverbs 27: 23-24 is both a beacon of hope and a map to mastering money management. “Know your flock well; pay attention to your herds, for no treasure lasts forever, nor a crown generation after generation.” (CEB)

The proverb teaches us that if we don’t keep track of our money and know where it’s going, our resources will disappear and keep us from taking good care of ourselves and our family. The modern-day equivalent of this is using a phone app, a money management software package or even an old fashioned written ledger (I’m old school — I still love my written money tracking chart!) to track where you’re spending your hard-earned dollars. Either write it down or plug it into your app. You’ll be astounded at how helpful it is to know where the money is going. During a crisis, this practice becomes even more important. 

By tracking where your dollars are spent, you’ll be able to plan better, prepare for what’s ahead as best you can, avoid waste, prioritize your purchases and ensure that you don’t overspend your income (or, if you’ve lost your job, your reserve funds). This is far less sexy than playing the stock market, but you’ll find that exercising this spiritual discipline will help you build a solid financial foundation that allows you to successfully manage the money God has provided to you, in both good times and in bad. This aspect of your spending plan will help carry you through and keep your life in order. 

Like I told the nice young women who were bagging my groceries yesterday, “Don’t be safe (what does that even mean?) but be smart” during this crisis. Stay at home, wash your hands, pray and start tracking your expenses so you can weather the storm. 

Email Matt for more information about resources to use in your small group, including his five biblical principles for managing money.

About the Author

Matt Schoenfeld

Matthew Schoenfeld has more than 30 years of ministry experience, and he has been teaching people biblical strategies read more…
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