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This topic is adapted from The Dave Ramsey Show YouTube channel. See the video for this topic on YouTube.

Have you ever made a big financial mistake? How about a bunch of small ones? A safe assumption is that a large majority of people have made both big and small money mistakes. Dave Ramsey gives us some tips on how to avoid future mistakes.

Keeping Up with the Jonses

Our culture is hyper-focused on status and money, making the average person feel like they never measure up. This leads to a constant state of trying to catch up or keep up with everyone else. The truth is, everyone is using debt to look rich and successful. The people who are actually successful and wealthy often go unnoticed because they don’t have a mansion and fancy cars. Building wealth is a long distance race that rarely has short-term payoffs. Going into debt just to drive a nice car or racking up a credit card bill for fancy clothes will leave you looking good but feeling stupid in the long run.

When Times are Good

Many financial mistakes get covered up when things are going well. During times of financial security, people often think only as far out as the next paycheck. There is a palpable pressure in our society to have a nice car and a big house or to dress in the most trendy clothes. A car payment may even fit easily within your budget when you are gainfully employed. The biggest question to ask yourself in those plentiful times is,”What happens if?” What happens if…I lose my job? What happens if…the economy goes downhill? What happens if…I get sick? Asking these hard questions and answering them can make a world of difference when the hard times hit.

When Times Are Not So Good

Sometimes the going gets rough and that’s when all the mistakes start hurting. A loss of income or life trial will quickly reveal the holes in a financial plan. The basics of money are all but lost to many people these days and the concept of racking up debt has become totally acceptable. The hard truth is: if you don’t have the money to pay for something up-front, you can’t afford it. Now when the trials come and you already couldn’t afford a car, the real pain starts. Debt can become a boat anchor on your personal life and have ripples effects in your marriage, too.

Unrealistic Lifestyles

Christians are called to live in the world but not be of the world. God teaches that his followers need to stand apart from the rest of society when living for Him. Financial lives can be no different or attacked with any less vigor than spiritual lives. A big house and shiny new car aren’t bad things, but not many of people can actually afford them. That big mortgage or car payment will become a prison, keeping you working a job you hate to pay for things you don’t really need.

If the math is so simple, why do people keep getting into debt? Aside from the pressures of a consumeristic society, people are capable of rationalizing just about any bad decision if they want it bad enough. People convince themselves that they truly need the object of their focus. “The big house is really what my family needs,” they think. “My kids will be much safer in this new car,” they tell themselves. Humans are extremely creative, especially when it comes to tricking themselves into doing something wrong for what seems like a right reason. Don’t get tricked into buying something you can’t actually afford or believing the lie that material possessions will make you happy. Adding debt can seem trivial, but the things we own can end up ruling our lives instead of making them better.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Have you ever bought something you regretted? What was it? Why did you end up regretting it?
  4. How can having debt trap you? Name one way.
  5. Is there ever good debt? Explain.
  6. How can having no debt create an easier path to following God? Explain.
  7. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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