If you are like most people, you cringe when you hear the word budget. And you’ve probably already thought of three reasons you don’t need one. Or maybe you know it’s something you should do, but never get around to actually doing it. No matter what your story is, it’s time to accept the reality that we all need a budget!
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds. (Proverbs 27:23 NIV)
Budgeting is an essential part of a faithful steward’s life. God has entrusted everyone with resources, and the Bible calls us to carefully manage it (Proverbs 27:23). Budgeting is an important spiritual discipline that puts God in charge of your finances.
If you aren’t already living on a budget, then the process of actually creating a budget might seem overwhelming. And the thought of sticking to a budget may feel like the equivalent of sucking all the fun out of your life. But a budget isn’t about complicating your life. It actually makes your life easier by knowing where your money is going. Don’t think of it as rules for how you can’t spend your money. It’s really giving yourself permission to spend because you’ve planned ahead of time.
So let me answer a few questions and share some keys to budgeting success.
When should you create your budget? Before the beginning of each month you should sit down and make a plan for your money. If you are married, then do this together with your spouse. Turn budgeting into a habit by making it a recurring monthly event on your busy calendar. I suggest doing this 5 to 10 days prior to the first day of the month.
How do you make a budget? Start by figuring out how much money you have to work with for the upcoming month. And be sure to include all sources of income. Include your income, your spouse’s income and any other money you plan to take in (i.e., yard sale earnings).
Next, spend every dollar on paper, on purpose. Give every dollar a name. When you finish planning for the month ahead, you should be able to subtract your expenses from your income to equal zero. Your budget isn’t complete until there is a plan for all of that month’s money.
Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. (Proverbs 3:9 NLT)
The order in which you budget money is important. Give, then save and then spend — in that order. The Bible instructs us to give to God first (Proverbs 3:9). Calculate 10% of your total income for the month and set that aside for your tithe. Saving should be your next priority. Pay yourself and prepare for future needs and wants. If you don’t budget giving and saving first, then you may spend everything and have nothing left. Now you are ready to allocate money to all the other categories where you will spend that month.
What should you do when you get to the bottom of your budget and there is money left over? Well, after you finish your happy dance, make sure you put that money to good use. Maybe add some money to savings for a future expense. Or give yourself some “fun money” that month and satisfy your desire for (planned) spontaneity. However, be prepared to make some cuts when your expenses add up to more than that month’s income. Don’t budget to spend money you won’t have.
Budgeting isn’t a one-time exercise. Each month has a different set of expenses. Some expenses are fixed and remain the same each month. But many budget categories are flexible and will change from month to month. In September we celebrate the birthday of several friends and family, so our budget for gift giving increases. August is back-to-school month and that means planning to buy lots of school supplies. Budgeting apps like EveryDollar by Ramsey Solutions make it easy to create a budget each month and track your spending while on the go.
When you first start living on a budget, expect it will take a few months to get the hang of it. You may forget to plan for an expense or overspend in some category, but don’t get discouraged and give up. Just review your budget and make adjustments. With a little patience and some determination, in a few months, you will have a budget you can rely on and some new positive money habits.
Get more help with budgeting by participating in next Financial Peace University class. Learn biblical principles for managing money, spending and saving wisely, and eliminating debt during this 9-week class.
Stewardship Pastor, Southeast Christian Church
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