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    "Mom, I Need More Cash…"

    Here's a plan for handling your money at college that doesn't include draining your parents' pockets.

    John and Chris Yates

    Please type in your four-digit personal pin number.
    Withdrawal? Yes.
    Amount? $30.
    Would you like a receipt of this transaction? No.
    Please take your card and wait for your money…

    And with this brief exchange any college student in the world is fully equipped for a fun night out. No hassle, no paperwork, and no strict calculations necessary. It's even easier than a fast-food value meal. Too good to be true? Yep.

    However easy it may be to step up to an ATM and drain some dollars out of our bank accounts, sooner or later the source dries up. And when the dryness sets in, students start to scramble for another source of income. This is well illustrated by the scene on the main street of one small college town.

    In this town, a well-situated block of ATMs draws lines of students every Friday night from a cluster of classroom buildings across the street. Just a few steps away from the magic cash dispensers stands an innocent-looking building with a dollar sign next to a "Clinical Trials" banner framing the entrance. Coincidence? More like convenience. Students explained to us that the building offered anyone between the ages of 18 and 25 a quick way to cash in on medical research. If basic qualifications are met, so the story goes, students can collect up to a few hundred dollars by offering their bodies up for short-term cold, flu, or numerous other "harmless" medical studies. No real work is necessary, just a shot or two in the arm, a checkup the next day, and two days later, voila, you can inject a check for 50 dollars or more right into your bank account. Those who blissfully frequent the ATMs on weekend nights often become Monday-morning regulars with the Clinical Trials technicians. An easy little two-step, but no way to live.

    Welcome to Finance 101

    At any given time most college students are one ATM withdrawal or one late credit card payment away from financial chaos. A standard feature of college life for almost all students is dancing along that line, beyond which lies the dreaded statement, "Mom, I need more cash."

    Even if your parents are kind enough to cover the expenses like tuition and housing, there are plenty of other costs waiting to crush your savings. Take textbooks for example. Countless students fail to realize the cost-inflated nightmare that awaits them at the student bookstore. Classes require materials, and materials cost a lot. Even a used Spanish grammar book can come with a $50 price tag. Then there are numerous other ways to spend money without hardly even noticing—clothes, movies, eating out.

    So how can you keep dollar signs from ruining your collegiate life? Apart from the fear of financial chaos, being broke, or being forced to turn to Mom or Dad for yet more help, keeping track of your limited resources is an important discipline. And college is actually a natural place to develop this discipline.

    First Things First

    Financial responsibility must begin with the issue of stewardship. We should acknowledge that everything we have is from God and should be treated as such. When we do this, financial decisions become spiritual decisions and take on much more significance than we would usually give them. If Christ is lord of our lives, he needs to be lord of our checkbooks too.

    In this sense, we really can't afford to be careless or selfish with our money. Credit cards, cash, and bank accounts are in our hands, but they belong to the Lord. First and foremost, this is a wonderful way in which the Lord can protect us. Included in the Bible's more than 2,300 verses referring to money are many verses that warn of the evil that surrounds money. In our world today one doesn't have to look far to see how easily money and sin can go hand in hand. Obviously we can't just rule out having or using money at all. But we can turn to the Lord and seek his ownership and protection.

    Remembering lordship requires us to pay close attention to our motives in what we do with our money. This is where we acknowledge the unique standards of Christ and guard ourselves against sinful stewardship. Saying, "Hey, this really belongs to the Lord," reminds us to ask, "How am I protecting myself against my own selfishness?"

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