Step 3: Take Action
Next in our series on financial clarity, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Let’s take action! Spending, saving, giving, taxes and debt repayment are the five broad categories needed for your budget review. God addresses these five categories in the Bible.
5 Categories to Consider for Budget Review
Spending: We spend portions of our earnings to attend to the physical needs in our households. “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10
Savings: Our work is no longer guaranteed to be as fruitful as it originally was in the Garden, so regular savings are required. “Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.” Ecclesiastes 11:2
Giving: Because we are prone towards greed, God invites us to give as a means of walking by faith and returning our heart to trust His provision. “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
Taxes: God instructs His people to pay taxes and outstanding debt. “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Romans 13:7
Debt Repayment: The goal for debt is zero. When the sum of the five categories totals over 100%, it’s often because your lifestyle is being financed by debt. Spend less, earn more, cut credit cards, put all options on the table to get out of debt. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender’s slave”. Proverbs 22:7
So, how do you perform a budget review?
First, classify all recent transactions into these five categories and divide each category by your gross income (the amount you’re paid before taxes are taken out). Next, review the category percentages (not the dollar amount), looking for wild imbalances in the results.
Below is a budget example of a married couple earning a combined annual income of $100,000. The example is not an attempt to say what’s right or wrong, but instead to display how a budget can be written so you can evaluate the results with consistency.
Federal, state and local taxes 17%
Tax estimates are for illustration purposes only. Please consult with an accountant to better understand your personal tax obligation.
Planned Giving 15%
While readers may connect this to a ‘tithe,’ we’re called to be sacrificial givers. The ability to give to someone who is experiencing a sudden or urgent need takes thought and preparation. Monthly contributions to a Christmas account or gift giving account are a great way to be proactive with end-of-year giving.
Short term or emergency reserves (3-6 months of expenses)
Intermediate term (home purchase, start business, education)
Long term (replace your income with retirement savings)
Debt Payments 21%
The average US households makes monthly mortgage payments of $1,275 and $475 for vehicles, totaling $21,000.
Spending (or living expenses) 35%
Includes items that can quickly add up like food, utilities, childcare, memberships, home and vehicle maintenance.
Remember that many households also make debt payments to credit cards, student loans and medical bills. Even without these common debts, many homes begin to decrease savings and giving to increase living expenses. Is that really being a good steward of your resources?
Practical Suggestion For Budget Review:
You can an effective change to your budget by using automatic transfers and two accounts.
- Set up a deposit for a fixed dollar amount for all your variable expenses (gas, groceries, etc.) into one account. This helps you stick to a variable spending budget.
- Set up a second account for all your savings, giving and fixed living expenses. This way all future raises, bonuses go directly into the account you’re using for gifts and savings and won’t sit in your checking account.
With your Net Worth and Cash Flow (budget) statements in hand, you’re ready for a financial self-assessment.
- Write your top concern at the top of a blank page.
- Then, list all the strengths (abilities) and the weaknesses (limitations/inexperience) you have surrounding this issue.
- Next, write any opportunities you may be able to utilize to overcome this challenge
- Finally, list all threats (real or perceived) to you and your family that this concern exposes.
Share this four-part list with your spouse, giving your partner the freedom to draw their own conclusions, if you have done this step alone.
One question to ask is whether your concern is truly a problem. Then pray for wisdom and discernment, wise council, and that your attitudes and actions will glorify God.
Finally, seek out wise council. Who is capable of handling this issue? We will cover this in the next installment.
In conclusion, I pray you now have a God-honoring approach. Remember, God owns it all, and my actions matter. My spouse is my regular and frequent prayer partner. I will be conscious of the saving, spending and giving decisions I make. We will address the threats as they arise and seek to advance on the opportunities presented to our household.
By Alan Morgan