“5 Lessons I Learned When I Didn’t Seem to Ever Have Enough Money,” Ensign, July 2020
I never really worried about money until after I graduated college. During college I had scholarships and a part-time job that helped pay for my housing and food expenses. Money was tight, but there always seemed to be enough.
But after finishing a post-graduation internship, I took a job with a small start-up company that didn’t work out the way I thought it would. I soon found myself living paycheck to paycheck and, for the first time, it seemed like there wasn’t enough money. I was plagued with fears about how I would pay my rent each month, and if I would have enough money for groceries.
It took me several months, but I eventually got a new job and started moving forward with my finances. I don’t look back on that stressful time with too many happy feelings, but I am grateful for some of the things that I learned. Here are just a few lessons I want to share with you:
First, I learned that money is similar to other things you need to maintain, like a car. If you don’t take the time to do the little things, it can get out of control. I quickly found out that I spent my money on a lot of little things that added up to a big amount at the end of the month. So I started keeping track of my spending and planning out where my money needed to go right when I got paid. This helped me get a clear view on where my paycheck seemed to disappear to every month and helped me prioritize my budget.
Tip: Look for apps that can help you budget and track your spending. Your bank or financial institution might even have one! (See Luke 16:2.)
I also learned more about the blessings of tithing. I’d always paid my tithing, but I hadn’t always paid it consistently. Sometimes I would forget and would have to make it up by paying for several months at a time. One time, when I was talking with my dad, he counseled me to pay my tithing more consciously. I took his advice and worked to be more consistent in paying my tithing. I didn’t miraculously come across stashes of money or have any incredible spiritual experiences, like we sometimes hear about, but I noticed that when I paid a full tithe, I felt a greater sense of peace and a lot less worried about my finances.
Tip: Always pay your tithing first (see 3 Nephi 13:33).
Another truth I learned was that it’s hard to be content with what you have when you’re constantly comparing yourself to others. I had to learn to tackle my money goals and not compare my circumstances to my friends or the people I saw on social media. Don’t get me wrong, this was—and still is—super hard. Working on being grateful for the blessings I did have was one of the best ways to be content and stop comparing.
Tip: Stop following people on social media with whom you tend to compare yourself negatively (see Doctrine and Covenants 50:34).
For me, I found that looking at big financial goals like paying off debt or saving enough money for a new car were overwhelming. Breaking those goals down into smaller goals was a huge help. I set up automatic savings through my bank to an online savings account that earned more interest. By keeping track and accomplishing those small goals, I got more and more confident as I got closer to meeting those bigger challenges.
Tip: Set some small financial goals and enjoy the feeling of getting small wins (see Alma 37:6).
I also learned that sometimes the answer to money worries is work. When I was working and living paycheck to paycheck, I realized that a lot of my fears were tied up with my job. I had to accept that no one was just going to hand me a high-paying job just because I had a college degree. It takes experience, time, and hard work to get what we need sometimes. So, I looked online for freelance work opportunities and found some that I could do in the evenings at home after my main job. And those little opportunities eventually led me to getting a new full-time job that helped many of my financial worries go away.
Tip: If you are in need of extra income, consider the skills you have or skills you would like to learn and look for opportunities for a side job or additional work (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:42).
Of course, a new job led to new financial questions and worries—what kind of insurance plan to get, how much to start saving for retirement, how to start saving to afford a house. But even though these new worries came up, I felt more ready to face them (see Doctrine and Covenants 38:30). As Elder L. Tom Perry (1922–2015) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “The Lord does help when we go to Him in times of need, especially when we are committed to His work and respond to His will. But the Lord only helps those who are willing to help themselves. He expects His children to be self-reliant to the degree they can be” (“Becoming Self-Reliant,” Ensign, Nov. 1991, 64).
There’s always more to learn, but thanks to some hard-learned lessons and some gratefully received blessings, I now feel much more prepared for the future.