Money is like Water

Via Flickr by user VanDammeMaarten.be. Used under Creative Commons License.

How does your life flow — like a faucet? Like a fire hose?

No, I’m not talking about your rapping skills; I’m talking about your money. Have you ever noticed how much we talk about money as if it were water? Think about it: we say things like “cash flow,” “liquid assets” and “frozen accounts.” When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Money is like water in a bunch of ways, and understanding the way that water works can help us figure out the best way to control our money (instead of letting money control us).

Like water, money flows into and out of our lives. Rarely does a big chunk of money ever fall into our laps (outside of inheritance, legal settlements and other very special cases). Instead, we get our money bit by bit, paycheck by paycheck, often on a regular and somewhat predictable basis. Money flows from the people that pay us, through the “plumbing” of the banking system, and into our control. And money flows out from our lives, too, whenever we buy things. Cash comes in, cash goes out. It’s rare that your checking account balance will look the same next week as it does today. Money, like water, is always moving.

Money and water have this important characteristic in common as well: They both help us to grow things in our lives. Without water, a farmer can’t raise crops, and a gardener won’t ever see her roses bloom. It’s the same with money — our funding grows things in a literal sense (we buy food to feed our physical bodies), and also in a financial sense (income and investing grows wealth and independence). We can use this life-giving property of money to help grow things that are important to us, like our churches or ministries that we support. It’s impossible to live without water, and the same is true for money — without it, nothing grows.

The fact that finances flow like water can be a great thing, but it also makes money notoriously hard to control. Imagine trying to drink from your kitchen sink using only your hands. Sure, you’ll capture plenty of water, and get some of it into your mouth. But along the way, you’re going to loose a lot to the cracks between your fingers. Sadly, many of us live our lives that way, nourishing ourselves with money, but also losing a lot of it along the way. How many times have you opened your checking account statement and sat bewildered, asking yourself “Where did all the money go?” It’s an age-old problem that the Bible addresses, albeit with a different metaphor. (Proverbs 23:5).

So, how do we keep our money from trickling out of our hands? Well, a savvy farmer learns to capture, channel and distribute his money in wise and strategic ways. With the proper systems and strategies in place, we can make our money go where we want it, when we want it to. Great planning keeps us from losing money in times of flooding (abundance), or withering up and dying in times of drought (lack).

So regardless of whether your flow is the size of a faucet or a fire hose, you can make it work a lot better if you build the right plumbing to channel it. And that means just one thing….

It’s time to make a budget.

Up Next: Portrait of an over-spending Young American