Personal finances. I find them fascinating. I love learning about budgeting, saving, debt, credit scores, credit card reward programs, on-line savings accounts with great interest rates, and personal finance software.
I have spent hours the last week or so following rabbit trail after rabbit trail through the briar patch that is the internets. It all started with What's Best Next, a blog by the senior director of strategy for Desiring God. The blog is all about how to best manage our lives and businesses, and is written from a christian perspective.
From there, I found mint.com. This is where I really got going. Mint is an online personal finance service. Think of it as an online, and completely free, Quicken. I signed up this week, and have been playing around with it all week. It's pretty sweet. Check it out.
Through Mint, I found several blogs dealing with personal finances. Microfrugality.com, stopbuyingcrap.com, and 20somethingfinance.com, along with mint.com's own blog. This isn't a ringing endorsement for any of those blogs, but I have at least found all of them interesting to some degree.
This is all interesting to me mainly for one basic reason. I am FRUGAL. Very frugal. I have never been a big spender, love to find ways to save money, enjoy thrift stores and garage sales, drive a car with over 200,000 miles, live in a small apartment with a roommate, demon-possessed cats (at least 2, who knows for sure?), and a 14-foot long sewing machine (that situation really deserves its own post), pay much more than the minimum on my student loans to save on interest, and almost always take the time to pick up pennies.
So there you have it. I'm on a personal finance kick. So where's the caution? I have a few. First, my goal in reading these blogs and using this software is to be more financially wise and independent, and "to make the most of my time, because the days are evil" (see Ephesians 5:15-17). But spending hours reading about personal finance can be a big waste time, and is not the same as implementing what I learn. I need to spend more time doing, and less time looking.
Second, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs," (1 Timothy 6:10) and "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin."
I think we should be careful anytime we are dealing with money, even if it is for a seemingly good reason. If all of these blogs and software don't set me free from the constraints of money and allow me to serve the Lord more freely and have more resources and opportunities to be a gracious giver, it's all worthless.