Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

I’m hooked on shopping. I literally can’t keep a penny in my pocket. No matter how much I buy, I always seem to want something else. How can I get this under control?

New Era

Learning to handle the money we earn is one of the challenges of living in modern times and in a modern economy. We are dependent on money to buy the necessities of life since, in general, we no longer raise all our own food, or weave our own cloth, or produce the things that make life comfortable and safe.

Budgeting carefully and disciplining spending habits are important lessons to learn at a young age, because good habits learned while in your early teens can make a big difference in your future. If you learn to save while you are young, you may open the way to get an education and you may be able to avoid unnecessary financial troubles later in life. If you learn to spend carefully in small ways, you may find it possible to purchase more substantial items that will improve your life.

Have a plan. Decide ahead of time how you are going to handle your money. First, set aside your tithing. After all, it is through the goodness of the Lord that you had the strength and opportunity to earn the money. Then with the remaining 90 percent of your money, decide how much you would like to save for a mission and college. It’s a good idea to open a savings account, since it is a lot less tempting to withdraw money from the bank than it is to take cash out of your drawer.

Needs before wants. Avoid buying on impulse. Make a list of things you need to buy. Then stick to your list. If you just can’t seem to resist, try leaving your money at home except for the amount you need to buy the things on your list. It’s hard to spend extra money if you don’t have it with you.

Avoid temptation. You may need to change some of your habits. You may have to avoid going to stores and to malls so often. If just looking makes you want things, then you have to stop looking. Think of other things to do with your friends. Try playing games in someone’s yard instead of paying for entertainment. Instead of eating out all the time, pack a lunch or invite your friends home and try out your cooking skills.

One way of figuring out where your money is wasted is by recording every penny you spend. Keep a piece of paper and a pencil in your pocket with your money. Write down everything you spend. Then you will have a good idea of places you are wasting money. It will also give you the information you need to make a budget.

Postpone purchases. Sometimes just waiting a few days or a few weeks before you buy something will help you sort out the things that would be wise purchases from the things you want at the moment.

You can’t buy happiness. The scriptures teach us that the love of money is the root of all evil (see 1 Tim. 6:10). Money itself is not evil. You can do a lot of good things with money. You need money to pursue education, to serve a mission, to provide for your family, to learn to be a wise steward. But when acquiring things is more important to you than learning more about the Savior and the things that will bring you and your family eternal happiness, then money becomes a big problem.

As a teenager, sometimes it seems that if you can buy the right clothes, or have enough money for concerts or computer games, or buy your own car, then you would be happy. Having too little money can be a hardship, but having everything you want doesn’t make your life easy or happy. It is only by keeping the Lord’s commandments that we find the way to happiness (see Mosiah 2:41).

Readers

Every time I got money, I would spend it on clothes and things, and if I had ten cents left, I would spend it on candy. One day I decided I wanted a better future. Every time I got paid, I paid my tithing and took half of my salary to the bank and put it in a savings account.

Angela Newton Jansville, California

This question describes me perfectly. I was spending my money on anything and nothing. My branch president told me to look at why I was spending. For me, I wanted to impress my friends and the world, but I wasn’t happy. Are you? I am now saving money for my mission instead.

J. Calvin Shipp, 18 Woodstown, New Jersey

  1. 1.

    Ask for advice from adults who keep a family budget.

  2. 2.

    Don’t covet. Realize that he who “layeth up treasure for himself” is not rich toward God (Luke 12:21).

  3. 3.

    Realize that true happiness comes from giving.

  4. 4.

    Be a wise steward over the few things you are given responsibility for.

  5. 5.

    Pray for help.

Andy Weenig, 17 Shreveport, Louisiana

Don’t go to the mall constantly. Don’t look at the ads in the paper. Eat at home. Entertain yourself by playing sports, attending Church activities, participating in service projects, and spending time with your family. Those things are all free.

Joy Swertfeger, 16 Portland, Oregon

Fasting and prayer with a sincere heart help a lot. Try to manage your money well, and make sure what you are buying at the moment is necessary and important.

Abena Bondzie Afful, 16 Accra, Ghana

Try shopping with a list and a specific goal in mind. This will help eliminate impulse shopping. Try the five-day waiting period for anything you feel you need or want to buy. If you don’t need it or want it in five days, then don’t go back and get it.

Tennille Berrie, 18 Salt Lake City, Utah

[photo] Photography by Matt Reier

[illustration] When a rich young ruler asked Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life, Jesus told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. The problem wasn’t the fact that the young man was rich. His love of possessions was getting in the way of living a righteous life, and his obsession with wealth was more important to him than the Lord was (see Luke 18:18–25). (Painting Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann, courtesy of C. Harrison Conroy Co.)