“We must consult our means, rather than our wishes” -George Washington
What an amazing quote.
What are some things you wish for?
I would like to travel all day every day for the rest of my life, with my beautiful wife by my side. I’d love to explore the islands of Fiji, climb glaciers in Iceland, and sleep in hammocks over the turquoise ocean in the Maldives. I wish I could weekly try five course meals with drink pairings at fancy, foodie restaurants in my city and around the globe. I wish I could send my children to top universities and give them extravagant, luxurious, opulent weddings.
Will I do some traveling? Absolutely. Will I enjoy a fancy, special dinner now and then? Definitely. Will I give my kids the best that I can manage to give when it comes to their education and celebration? Of course! But accruing thousands of dollars by extending myself far outside my budget is a guaranteed way to invite the company of regret, anxiety, and the proverbial “bursted bubble.” Ironically, I will end up losing the apparent pleasure, joy, and fun that I just experienced. What’s the point?
Mr. Washington is right… we (especially “we” meaning Americans) must learn to live within our means and to use the money that we earn, wisely.
I once heard it said, “Don’t show me what your value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” It’s true. The way that we prioritize how we spend our money exposes our hearts. It’s like Jesus said, after explaining the importance of storing up treasures in Heaven: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
Christian blogger and certified educator in personal finance, Bob Lotich, offers this simple budget explanation:
Expenses > Income = Bad
Expenses < Income = Good
As simple as it sounds, that is the key to wealth. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who IS wealthy (I emphasize IS because I am not talking about people who appear to be wealthy, but who are actually in debt up to their eyeballs) spends LESS money than they earn. AKA – their expenses are less than their income.”
You can ask my wife… I honestly hate talking about money. I hate financial conversations and historically, I have hated sitting down to discuss budgeting and bills. I used to joke about going back to a bartering system where we just exchange and share things with people rather than having to swipe cards and write checks. But, this obviously would never work in our current society. I am working on changing my heart and attitude about money, because I have (finally) come to the realization that it’s not going anywhere and it influences and effects my daily life more than I want to admit.
Scripture tells us that we cannot serve money (Matthew 6:24), but that we must take the reins and create strategies for money to serve us. The truth is that budgeting is about having more, and can lead to abundance and wealth. When we make our income work for us, we feel a greater sense of contentment and ownership.
I have a friend named Joel who recently talked about “giving” at church. He talked about our money being representative of a “vote.” He simply said, “When we give to any certain cause, when we buy a certain product, when we tithe… we are “voting” for the cause, company, or organization that we want to succeed. When we give to this church, we become partners in the success of this institution by casting a vote with our money.”
This created a paradigm shift for me… an “ah ha” moment. Spending is like voting and where/how I spend my money represents what I care about.
How to Stick to Your Budget (Fun Funds)
First, you have to create one. There are a number of excellent budget spreadsheets online that you can look up and begin personalizing. There are apps and tools that help you to track and categorize your income with less effort than having to keep a paper record of your expenses and spending.
But I love this reminder from Mr. Lotich: “The almost sure-fire way to make a budget that fails is to NOT budget for any fun stuff. I wrote about how budgeting should be fun and it is a necessary ingredient for success. You need to budget for clothing, entertainment, going out to dinner, or whatever else it is you love to do! The key is to do it in moderation and to set limits and abide by them.” If we set aside and prioritize “fun funds” then we will look forward to maintaining our budget so that we will be able to spend dollars on things we actually want, without the feeling of guilt that we get when we spend outside our means.
Do something different this week in regards to your finances. Create a budget with realistic categories. Discuss and generate a plan to begin intentionally chipping away at your debt. Talk about holiday spending for the upcoming year. Share about causes and organizations that you’d like to make donations to. Pray about tithing and giving even 1% more than you currently tithe (if you already do this faithfully).
We would love to hear your questions, thoughts, and ideas about budgeting in the comments below!