This month, we are going to talk about the first step in being a good steward with God’s money. We’re going to learn How to Start a Budget.
A budget is simply a plan, a way of organizing and planning how you will distribute the money God has given you. A budget tells you how much money you have and where it must go. It provides boundaries for how much can be spent in an area. It also provides freedom, because you know that when you need something the money is there. If you are going to wisely manage your income it is absolutely necessary to have a budget.
Living without a budget is like trying to bake a cake without a recipe. You can’t keep adding ingredients without knowing how much of which ingredient is needed. In both cases, you’ll end up with the same result—A BIG MESS. Living on a budget avoids the big mess. It gives you a plan to follow to avoid financial destruction. It is an absolute necessity.
Throughout my life, I’ve had the opportunity to observe money management without a budget and money management on a budget, and to experience the consequences of both choices.
When I was growing up, my Dad had complete control of the family finances. He didn’t allow my Mom to help him or even know what was going on with the money. When she would try to become involved, he would either twist things around demeaning her intelligence or he would become very angry until she left him alone. Either way, he had complete control of the family finances and he chose not to live on a budget.
Without a plan, he spent more money than he earned resulting in a large debt. Not wanting anyone to know he wasn’t properly handling the money, the debt continued to grow and accumulate interest for 10 years until my Mom opened a bank statement and learned the truth. That’s when things began to change.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t until we learned about the secret debt that we found out my Dad wasn’t living on a budget. Until then, he told us he was budgeting and had everything under control. We believed him because money was always very tight. My Mom went without a lot of things and sacrificed because Dad said we didn’t have the money.
Looking back, I see that living without a budget was like living with a giant, money-eating monster. My Dad had a good job, and we should have been able to live comfortably. However, because he didn’t manage our money, it was always disappearing. We were living like we were struggling financially for no good reason except that the income God gave us wasn’t being properly managed. The end result of his choice to live without a budget was a lack of money, no savings, financial worry, and a large debt.
After my Dad’s secret was revealed, everything in our financial lives changed.
For one thing, he no longer had complete, unquestioning control. Instead, my Mom took the lead in dealing with our family’s finances; however, her leadership included the entire family. All of us were included, informed, and accountable.
As she studied Christian resources like, “A Guide to Financial Freedom”, she applied the principles she learned and established our family budget. Although she carried the main responsibility as the Chief Financial Officer, each of us knew how the budget worked and where the money was going. When decisions or changes needed to be made, she discussed it with all of us. She kept herself accountable to the entire family. If we had a suggestion for a budgeting improvement, she listened to our suggestion and implemented several of them.
Within months, our family began experiencing the benefits of living on a budget. I can honestly say that everything in our financial lives changed for the better. Even though our discretionary spending was restricted because we were making large payments to eliminate my Dad’s debt, we experienced financial freedom like never before. There were no more worries about whether we had enough to pay the bills. They were a line item in the budget, and the money was there.
Emergencies were less stressful as we began to slowly build an emergency savings account. The boundaries provided guidance in our discretionary spending allowing us to know how much could be spent. When that amount was gone, we’d have to wait until the next budgeting cycle. Instead of the answer always being, “We don’t have the money,” the answer became “I have the money for this now, and something else later.” Within those boundaries, we found safety and felt financially secure.
After living through this experience and seeing life from both perspectives, I have decided that I will never live without a budget again. Whenever we share this part of our testimony, I always encourage women to make the choice to live on a budget. It is not an option, it is a necessity.
Every woman, whether married or single, young or old, or whatever you economic level, needs to learn about budgeting and apply what they learn to their financial situation. It is the only way to manage God’s money wisely and accurately apply the principle of stewardship to your life.
Now, let’s get real. It’s one thing to acknowledge the need to live on a budget; getting started is another. Where do you begin?
For our family, it began with the booklet, “A Guide to Financial Freedom” .
Crown Ministries is another excellent place to find information about budgeting. They are a Christian ministry that focuses on helping people handle money according to God’s principles. They have a variety of resources that will teach you how to start a budget. They will help you find a method of budgeting that will work in your life.
These are both excellent resources from very credible organizations that will help you get the budgeting process started in your own life. Of course, budgeting is only beneficial when you stop thinking about it and reading about it and start doing it. With that in mind, this month, we’re providing a sample budget based on what we’ve learned about budgeting over the years. Although this sample budget will not address every particular expense in your life, it will help you understand step-by-step how to start a basic family budget. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you can use this model to begin managing your money using God’s financial principles.