So, you know you’re struggling with money when you go to the ATM, checking your account balance to see if you’ve got at least enough to go out for pizza.
Ok, forget the ATM. You check your device. But it’s just as indicative of a problem – that you haven’t got a clue where your money is going. And that was me, at one time. Standing there thinking, this doesn’t feel right – but I’m going to do it anyway.
Let’s face it, the reason you’re unsure if you can even cover a pizza is perhaps because, like me back then, you don’t have a plan – a spending plan. You don’t know where your money has gone or is going. And we’re not talking, generally, but specifically. You don’t have an assignment for each of your income dollars.
What you actually need is a budget. That’s right. The B-word.
But before you check out, hear me out on the biggest reason you must have a budget, a spending plan—and it’s not what you’re thinking. I can pretty much guess that you’re saying to yourself, “Budgets? I hate budgets and especially, budgeting.”
The biggest reason you need to have a plan is that you’ve got to plug the leaks. Without a budget or monthly spending plan, you can’t even find them. And here’s where that goes.
Think of a kid’s blow-up toy or even your blow-up kayak—yes, they have those. If there is a leak and you can’t find it, you can’t fix it. And if you can’t patch the leaks, your toy, your kayak—or more importantly your finances—are rendered ineffective. They can’t work.
When your finances aren’t working, there’s stress, tension, worry, fear—and if you’re married, even arguing. Money issues are one of the top reasons for divorce, if not the top one.
But what if it could be different? What if you could find and patch the leaks, and even have money left after your paycheck?
A budget is simply a tool for putting a name to each of your income dollars before spending them—and it’s a must-have tool for taking care of your financial leaks. And once you get into a rhythm of a monthly spending plan, in time, this tool and related practices will restore peace in your heart and mind, and if you’re married, for your spouse, as well.
How do I even get started budgeting, of having a plan for my/our money?
Before you start, choose not to be intimidated. Even if you’re not a numbers person, you can do this. I went to school to be a sportswriter and now I’m a church staff guy. You think I’m a numbers person? You can do this.
Here’s a little exercise we’ve borrowed from an outfit called Ramsey Solutions to help you to get a feel for a potential budget of your own:
STEP 1 Write down what you’re spending for each item in each of the categories below—even if you have to make your best guess
STEP 2 Add up each line item and record on the “TOTAL” line for each category.
STEP 3 Add up category TOTAL lines and record on “TOTAL FOR CATEGORIES.”
You’ll notice I’ve left off your income and any debt you may have. That’s okay. This is just to get you going. So give it a try!
Transportation Planned Amt
Auto Insurance __________
Gas | Oil __________
Housing Planned Amt
Mortgage | Rent __________
TOTAL FOR CATEGORIES __________
Giving Planned Amt
Food Planned Amt
Personal Planned Amt
Fun Money __________
Believe it or not, you’ve just taken a powerful first step in creating a monthly spending plan—a budget—from which you’ll begin to not only plug the leaks, but gain traction toward goals that may seem way out of reach for you, right now—even a paid-off home mortgage!
So, stay tuned. We’ll take another big step together next time.
If you’re interested in getting a plan for dumping debt, building wealth, and giving generously, we offer groups where you’ll discover best practices for accomplishing those goals. You’ll also be empowered to save for emergencies, invest for retirement, fund your kids’ college education, and more!
Click here for a free PDF that outlines group sessions.
Sean Allen is the Singles and Recovery Pastor at Warren Baptist Church.
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