Over Extended!

It Happens So Gradually

2014 Debt ChartWhat? Debt Creep. I am not using the word to describe someone scary, but better related to letting debt grow at a snails pace and not keeping it under control.

Too easily we let this happen. No financial controls at home, and no willingness to not satisfy our wants with the use of a charge card.

We over extend ourselves with our housing and auto (this includes all the fees it takes to keep these two areas functioning), and then we start living off of the credit cards.

Before you know it, the debt has crept up to those high levels that start making our lives miserable.

Over extension is a real syndrome. It happens not only in our financial world, but in our personal space, work commitments, play time, sports viewing, and the list is probably endless.

We get started with something and it takes control and crowds out all the other sections of life.

Symptoms often show up in strange ways. Making excuses, tardiness, falling behind in important things, sickness, depression, and a litany of poor choices in other areas. Before you know it – poof! – the snowball of over extension threatens the very joy of life.

You start to run from things, instead of facing up to them.

If this is true in many areas of living, how do we reel them under control? Again. And then learn from the continuous repetitive mistakes that got us to this point.

Learning to say “No” is definitely in order – whether it’s overcrowding you private world or letting the “keeping up with the Jones’s” mentality be in control.

These steps have often worked for me.

  1. Make some ordered sense of your life – Checklist, priorities, to do, pro vs con… Take some time to really check out what you have going on in your world and wrangle it into some check and balance control. This can include finance, family, spare time, yard work, projects, school, and, yes, even your career.
  2. Set some Goals – This is not major and with each stage of life we have varying goals that relate to perceived needs over the next 5, 10, or 20 years. Write these Goals down and publish them somewhere visible. Keep them fresh in your mind!
  3. Make a Plan – Without a plan to accomplish goals you will probably never see if you are going in the right direction.
  4. Create some Milestones – These are simply measurable steps along the way that are points of celebration. Achievements always earned badges in my Scouting days.
  5. Annual Check Ups – Consider that life changes and Goals, Plans and Milestones need to be adjusted to the changes. Do not be afraid of making major adjustments.
  6. Enjoy the journey – Even ups and downs can be handled if you have some order.

The one thing that is often lacking revolves around the time needed to manage your personal world. Reading, studying, paying bills, family time, relaxation, spiritual well being – they all take a concerted effort to manage.

Back in the 80’s I enjoyed a book by Gordon MacDonald, “Ordering Your Private World” (click the title to go to Amazon). It is a worthy book to read every so often as you work on managing your self in this busy climate we live in.

In 2015 I am starting a new teaching session at our church on managing our personal lives. Stewardship often focused strictly on finances, but according to God’s word it really covers all aspects of living. Consider what God tells Job:

Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.  (Job 41:11 ESV)

Everything belongs to Him, and that includes our whole being. Our time. Our efforts. Our emotions and personality. Career. Family. Downtime. Everything! When we order our private world according to the teaching and examples of God then we are managing our world according to principles that will give us success.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (Joshua 1:8 ESV)

Ahhhaaa… Success! That’s what we are all after, right?

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