A better way to spend your next raise

Several years ago I was leasing an SUV, but I had also entered a season of life where it was necessary for me to drive quite a few miles. I knew that I was probably going to kill my allowed mileage. (One of many reasons why leasing is a bad idea, you don’t know what changes life may bring your way.)

At any rate about that time I was fortunate to receive a pay increase at work, so what do you suppose my first thought was? I pulled out the calculator. Did some quick calculations and determined how much of a used car payment I could “afford” now that I had a little extra coming in.

And so I bought a used car to keep from going over the mileage on my leased SUV. Meanwhile I had credit card debts and other debts, and I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t seem to get ahead.


Words of wisdom from Solomon

In Ecclesiastes 5:11 Solomon wrote:

The more you have, the more you spend, right up to the limits of your income. So what is the advantage of wealth—except perhaps to watch it as it runs through your fingers! TLB

It is always amazing how relevant the Bible can be, or perhaps people just haven’t changed that much in the last few thousands years. That verse could be a quotation from a magazine article in some personal finance magazine on the newsstand today. It would fit right in.

That’s exactly what we so often do. As soon as we get an increase of some kind we find a new way to spend it. I used to often think, if I could just get a little more coming in each month then I could get over that hump. But most of the time when I did get an increase my lifestyle would gradually rise to the level of my pay.

Maybe I’m unique but I kind of doubt it.

A better way to spend your next raise

What if the next time you received an increase in pay, instead of simply finding new ways to spend money, you were to:

  • Pick a debt and start applying all of that increase toward it until it was gone.
  • Saved the increase each month until you built up an emergency fund so that the next time Murphy visits it doesn’t mean pull out the plastic and fall deeper into the debt trap.
  • Use the added increase to make extra payments on your mortgage with the goal of paying it off a lot sooner than 30 years.
  • Save that money in a separate car fund account so the next time you go car shopping, you can pay cash.
  • Use that money for some education that would enable you to find an even better job.
  • Or here is a radical thought. What if you decided to up the percentage that you give to your church or your favorite charity each month?

These are just a few of the ways you could use that next raise to improve your financial quality of life.

Learning from the past

Fortunately, several years ago I reached the point where I was tired of living paycheck to paycheck with little to show for it. I realized the reason I couldn’t ever seem to get ahead wasn’t the economy, or bad luck, or circumstances. The problem was the guy looking at me in the mirror. My problem was poor decisions like leasing that SUV and then having to buy a used car to keep my mileage under control.

I made sufficient income; I just had to stop allowing it to run through my fingers as Solomon said. I got on a budget, got serious about saving and getting out of debt and today we are in a much better place.

So my challenge to you this week is, the next time you get a pay raise, a bonus, or some other financial windfall, be intentional. Don’t let it fritter away. Use it to make a real difference in your life and in the lives of those around you.

How did you spend your last financial windfall?

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