Two years ago, Brother Bradley Jones* from South Africa decided to quit his full-time job, take the plunge and start his own consulting business. The months that followed were, in his own words, “intense”.
With little capital saved up, he was under pressure to turn a profit almost immediately. In addition to that, he had a family to take care of: grocery bills, school fees, a car instalment and a mortgage on his house to pay. Before long, the family found themselves struggling to make ends meet. “When it was rough, it was incredibly rough. It made me question myself: “Did I get an answer from the Lord about starting my business?” said Bradley. “Am I lying to myself?”
But through that “spiritually affirming” experience, Bradley learned a wealth of lessons. Today, he shares some of the ways in which he and his family have learned to manage their money in the true spirit of self-reliance.
1. Involve the Lord in the details. “I was very, very prayerful in all of my financial decisions,” said Bradley. “That allowed me to feel safe about the choices I was making, even though I was taking substantial risk. I felt like I had the Lord’s sanction. Without that, I don’t think I could have been as confident.”
2. Ask the Lord to help you recognise the difference between needs and wants. “We tried really hard to follow the spirit in terms of what to let go of and what not to,” said Bradley. “That’s difficult, because there are no hard and fast rules as to what’s a reasonable standard of living. Allow the Lord to tell you what your needs versus your wants are.” After much prayer, the family decided to sell their house in order to help pay off debt.
3. Counsel together as a couple. “This experience was an affirmation of the importance of being on the same page as a couple,” said Bradley. “These decisions can’t be made in isolation. It’s easy as a business owner to say, ‘hey I’m making business decisions,’ but they spill over into your personal life and your family bears the brunt of them.” Because Bradley and his wife made financial decisions together, “my wife was always fully supportive of the risks I took.”
4. Drastically downscale your lifestyle, if that’s what it takes. “Make sure that you live within your means, whatever your means are, and change your lifestyle as drastically as you have to in order to do so,” said Bradley. “Never sustain a lifestyle on credit. If you can’t pay for something now, then wait until next month. Don’t count on money before it’s in the bank.”
5. Don’t think you’ll be the exception to the rule. “If it takes the average business three to five years to be profitable, it is arrogant to think that you can do it in one,” said Bradley. “Accept that there are things you don’t know. If it takes everyone else five years, it will take you five years too.”
The family now follows a strict monthly and daily budgeting practice. They take their monthly earnings, and deduct all their fixed monthly payments: tithing, rent, school fees, insurance, car payments and so forth. “Then we are left with an amount with which we must fill the variables – including the groceries and petrol,” said Bradley. “We divide that amount by 31 to come up with a daily cash allotment. We see that as the amount we earn each day. We follow the principle of ‘you can’t spend money you haven’t earned’.
The family uses an app, but you could use envelopes with cash inside them: anything that helps you break down your income into daily amounts. They stick to this principle rigidly: “if you want to buy pizza tonight, but you know you need to buy petrol tomorrow, then you forego the pizza,” he said.
As we are “faithful over a few things”, the Lord will make us ruler over many things,” (Matthew 25:21).
Following this level of financial discipline has helped Bradley see the hand of the Lord in his life. “When I do my very best to do everything in my power: to be disciplined and take ownership of my situation, then the Lord performs miracles,” he said.
*name has been changed