What is the balance between simplicity and enjoyment of resources? What is the balance between faith and prudence in our financial decisions? What is the best way to care for our families and to steward what God has given us, simultaneously.
I believe that help in all of these struggles can be found in the concept of margin. Building margin into our life – whether in relationships, in our schedules, or in our finances – allows us the space and freedom to maintain our perspective. For example, if we build time each day to spend with the Lord, we are able to hear His voice on the issues that burden us. And, if we purposefully leave a few nights free in the holiday season, we have time to deal with the inevitable conflict or needs within our relationships. Correspondingly, when we have a financial cushion, we can make more intentional and measured decisions, without feeling as flustered by the immediacy of needs.
How much financial margin? Well, I (along with most financial advisors) recommend having a plan for building your margin. First of all, you need to pay off any credit card and short-term, high interest debt. Secondly, build an emergency fund of three to six months’ living expenses. After that, you save for the longer-term goals that you have, such as retirement, major purchases, college funds, etc.
In my experience, the only way to create any margin in life is to plan for it. My wife and I plan our calendars to put free space into them. Similarly, we save first (along with our giving), before we designate money into spending categories in our budget. As the saying goes, “nature abhors a vacuum.” If you do not save (both time and money) on the front end, it is highly unlikely that you will have any extra left at the end.
My prayer for you is that you know the grace of Jesus in all areas of your life and that, by His grace, you are able to move toward greater margin and a different perspective.