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It's Greek to Me - An Ancient Lesson in Economics, Part 2

In the first of this two-part series, we explored the original meaning of the words economics and steward and discovered that they come from the same root word in ancient Greek. We also looked at some examples of famous stewards in the Bible, as well as the typical view of stewardship in Christian circles.

Image Credit: Canva

Talking about the origin and meaning of words is all well and good; but as interesting as etymology can be, there must be a practical application to make this study relevant to our everyday lives. Since economics and stewardship both originally referred to the management of a household, in what ways can we apply good stewardship to our own homes?

First and foremost, I believe we must begin with mindfulness. It is so easy to get so caught up in the business and busyness of the day that we don't consider many of our economic choices carefully. While I am not advocating an obsession with every penny, I do believe it is within our mandate to think about the expenditures we make, especially if they are large or frequent. The easiest way to track this spending, of course, is with a budget.

I know, I know, budgets aren't fun. I avoided them for years for that very reason. After all, I was cautious in my spending and stayed within my means, so why did I also need to track my finances? The answer is that no one can keep up with everything by using such a hit-or-miss approach. To truly know where the money is going, it needs to be put down in writing. My husband and I now do a quick weekly review to keep tabs on our accounts. While he has created his own formula-rich spreadsheets, there are many online resources to help you, including ones from Nerdwallet, Rocket Money, and Microsoft.

As you faithfully track your budget, spending patterns will start to appear and give you a clearer picture of how you manage your money. Whether you stay mostly within your means or have trouble overspending, though, we all need to look at how we can do better. Going back again to the root meaning of economics and stewardship, we can examine not only our overall budget but also individual categories and assess how to economize in each. Some areas that you may not have considered but which, over time, can make significant differences in your finances include:

  • Utilities - We are blessed with abundance in this country, but that abundance can also lead to unnecessary use. Turning off unneeded lights, water, or power (my dad would be proud!) can go a long way toward saving on your bill and freeing up these resources in times of need. Your utility company may have tools online to help you view your usage, such as this one from Duke Energy.

  • Vehicles - We have many choices of what kind of vehicle to drive. Stewardship requires a number of considerations for this purchase, such as how much the vehicle will ultimately cost, as well as how fuel efficient it is and how much it will be to repair. See these helpful websites or others like them to calculate those costs:

    • Auto Loan Calculator: With the average new car costing $47,338 and car dealers now offering long-term financing (!), this website will help you understand the total cost of your vehicle.

    • Financial Mentor: figure the actual cost of owning a particular vehicle on this site.

    • AAA - this site will estimate the repair costs of your vehicle, based on location.

  • Clothing - How many of us have closets full of clothes we haven't even looked at in years? The first step toward stewardship would be cleaning out anything you know you won't wear and blessing others by donating it to charity. After the cleanout, you can make a wardrobe plan on this app for Apple phones or one of these apps for Androids, then buy accordingly.

  • Groceries - Again, planning is key. I think most of us (including myself) are often guilty of picking up something that is more expensive and/or not as healthy because we are tired and out of time. Regular meal planning and a shopping list will go a long way toward reigning in overspending. Check out this website for meal planning sheets, this one for meal planning apps, and this one to help organize your planning.

  • Subscriptions - This area is one of the easiest to overlook. All those free 7-day trials can come back to bite if you don't keep up with what's on your monthly statement. There are apps to monitor your subscriptions, such as this one from Rocket Money.

  • Entertainment - Remember someone saying that the best things in life are free? While that might not always be true, there are many ways to spend your time off that don't cost a lot of money, especially outdoors. Check your local events calendar and the parks and recs guide to find some fabulous free or nearly-free options to enjoy.

Ultimately, we are to be good stewards of our God-given resources so that we have something left over with which to help others. Our abundance can contribute to economic mutuality by assisting people personally, or through organizations that facilitate job training, fair trade, and many other things that can make capitalism better for everyone. For a list of organizations that focus on economic mutuality, see the Ethics Organizations page under the Resources tab on our website.

The motto of a church that I attended in the past was "Blessed to be a blessing," and this saying is so true! I guarantee that you will be as blessed or more so when you, through good stewardship, help make someone's life better economically and experience this mutuality for yourself.

Tired of "profit is evil" vs "maximize my profit by exploiting others," as if those are the only two options?

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"This book merits close, sustained attention as a compelling move beyond both careless thinking and easy ideology."—Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Better Capitalism is a sincere search for a better world."—Cato Institute

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