Building a Budget

Financial stress is a large reason for problems in a marriage.  Learning to manage the funds that come into our home and living within our means is vital in leading toward a successful marriage. Both husband and wife should work together in making a budget. Remember, a budget is a guideline and there will be times when emergencies happen that blow the budget. Keeping a budget helps you see where your money is going and where you can make adjustments, if necessary.

Some steps to building a successful budget:

1. Add up your income.
Determine how much your monthly income is.  This includes not only job earnings, but also any allowances you may receive.

2. Put God first. 
Give Him the tithe (10%) of your gross income.  (See the lesson on tithing).

3. Estimate your expenses.
Designate categories in which you spend your money (see example below). For each category, write down what you think you will spend.  Be sure and plan for savings as well.

4. Figure out the difference.
Subtract your expenses from your income.  If the sum is less than zero, it is time to cut your expenses.  There will be categories that you will not be able to cut (rent/house payment, for example), but you may have to go without eating out so often, or buying that unnecessary item for now.

5. Become a great money manager!
After you have created a workable budget that is agreeable, keep records of your actual income and expenses.  This will show you any variations between the amount you budgeted and the amount you actually spent.  Review your budget on a regular basis to make sure you are staying on track.  Buy some inexpensive no. 10 envelopes and keep one for each category each month.  As you pay your bills, you can mark when you paid them and put them in the appropriate envelope.  Then when it comes to doing your taxes at the end of the year, it will be easy to prepare your tax information.

Below is a typical monthly budget.  The percentage of your total take-home pay for the month follows the category. For example, if your total monthly take-home pay is $2,000, then you would allocate $600 for housing, and so on for each category.

Tithes: 10%
Housing : 26%
Transportation: 17%
Food: 15%
Miscellaneous: 7%
Clothing:  4%
Medical: 4%
Recreation: 4%
Utilities: 5%
Savings: 4%
Other Debts: 4%

Some hidden pitfalls to watch for when making a budget:

1.  Don’t go to extremes.  It is not necessary to figure out your spending to the last nickel.  Remember, the budget is a guideline.  The other extreme is to not follow your budget.  This can get you into a deep financial hole that is hard to get out of.

2.  Avoid the “more money in, more money out” syndrome. This means you spend more simply because you have more.  This extra income can be put aside in a savings account, for example, for when you have emergency situations or one-time purchases.

3.  Do your best to stay out of debt.  If you develop a cycle of debt, the problem just grows and grows. You may find yourself borrowing money just to make payments on the money you borrowed! 

4.  Avoid the use of automatic overdrafts on your checking account.  This allows you to write checks for more than you have in your account and the overdraft becomes a loan from the bank.

5.  Avoid using automatic teller machines (ATM).  Many people fail to log these in their checkbook register and end up writing bad checks.

6.  Balance your checkbook.  Make a commitment to do this monthly as services charges and fees can cause you to be overdrawn if they are not recorded.

7.  Don’t get discouraged!  If your budget doesn’t work the first month, keep trying.  Developing a realistic budget takes time. It may take six months or more before your budget begins to work for you.

Once you decide to follow God’s principles in your finances, He will be faithful to provide your needs.

                                                                                                        – Doris Knoles


                                          – Dr. John Knoles

Because so many couples struggle to survive from day-to-day, it is difficult for many to plan ahead financially. Money problems can weigh on a couple relentlessly. If a marriage is weak to begin with, overdue bills escalate contention. Satan loves to ruin marriages through financial oppression. Jesus said a divided home will soon fall (Luke 11:17).

When a couple has no financial plan, there is little to restrain spending. Many avoid discussing finances because it’s an explosive subject. Resentment builds in a marriage when a couple can’t talk about money without fighting. No one gets into debt accidentally, but playing “the blame game” won’t solve financial problems.

There are three primary reasons a husband or wife may want to control the finances. The most common is selfishness. This stems from the misconception that one of the two is entitled to spend money as they please. Another problem is irresponsibility. When a couple marries before they understand financial obligations, friction results. The third challenge is prioritization. What will the money be spent on and who makes those decisions?

Wise spending tends to draw a couple together, whereas out-of-control spending drives them apart. Two people, working together, can live more economically. Every person views money differently, but God’s Word tells us two can walk together in harmony (Amos 3:3). Positive financial strides can be taken if both stay in step. The Bible tells us two are better than one, for their labors will be rewarded (Eccl. 4:9-10). Being in agreement is the key to financial freedom.

The best way to stay out of debt is to make a budget and stick to it. Once you commit to a budget, you are on the road to financial freedom. A budget clearly reveals where your money is going. It provides accountability. It is an agreement concerning where the paycheck goes before it is cashed. Only by budgeting can spending priorities be established and controlled. It takes the emotion out of financial dilemmas because good decisions have been made in advance.

Budgeting includes tithing and should be your first budget item. Financial strength will result from years of careful spending and saving what the Lord has allowed you to use. You will learn many things about God in the process. Another fringe benefit of budgeting is the peace of mind you get while you are saving for your future. Obedience in giving allows the Lord to open the windows of heaven and bless you (Mal. 3:10).

Jesus said no one would think of building a tower without first sitting down counting the cost (Luke 14:28). A budget is a both a management and an evaluation tool. It deliberately restricts spending and assures money will be available for things that really matter. While having a budget may build a couple’s financial confidence, its success is directly related to its use. Any budget that works depends upon the commitment to stick to it. It should not breed a false sense of financial security or rule your life. Try out a budget you have both designed. If it doesn’t work well, talk it over and make adjustments. Designing a financial strategy will promote profitable discussions and enhance marital communication.

View your budget in terms of accountability, rather than cold figures on paper. Budgeting allows you to redefine your marital priorities. It clarifies marital goals by helping you discover your mate’s values and desires for the future. Through budgeting your income, a couple will learn patience, self-control, sacrifice, prioritization and faithfulness to God and to each other. Make all budget decisions together, seeking the Lord for direction. Effective financial planning builds hope. Led by the Holy Spirit, couples can have the future they hope for (Jer. 29:11-13).



Maxim of the Moment

Rare is the one you can long hold dear.