If you’ve ever sat down to write out your financial budget you know it can be one of the most frustrating things you’ll ever experience. No matter how hard you try, it just never seems to work out. The expenses are always greater than the income. On the rare occasion when you think it’s going to work out and the whole budgeting process seems at least doable, an unexpected emergency pops up, leaving you hopeless. You think to yourself, “This will never work!”
Here is some encouragement and advice.
1. Give yourself a pat on the back.
You’re at least attempting to do something about your situation. The average person does not bother to put their income and expenses on paper (or computer). The poor think they don’t have enough money to make a budget work. The rich think they have too much money for a budget to even be necessary. As for the ones in between – well, they don’t do budgets either for any number of reasons.
Those who properly manage the resources they have (no matter how much that is) through the use of a written budget are the ones who make the most of their money and improve their financial situation. Those who take time to put their current income and expenses on paper have a better understanding of exactly where the money is going and therefore can make informed decisions about how to spend it.
So, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re willing to put yourself on a budget and say “no” to yourself (regarding purchases) at least once in a while. That makes you above average, at worst.
2. Be honest with yourself.
The word current above was italicized for a reason. That’s because many make the mistake of doing their budget based upon income or expenses that are not reality. They inflate the income based upon a bonus or pay increase they hope to get. Or, they lower their food, clothing, and entertainment expense categories to a number they think they can stick to. It’s good to have goals and to have a financial budget that you want to make happen at some point in time. However, if you’re a first time budgeter, it’s important to be honest with yourself about how much you have been spending in each category and how much you have coming in right now.
Put your current income and expenses on paper (or use a budgeting spreadsheet) first. This will give you the complete picture of where you’re money is going, and will be an eye opener in most cases. Skipping this step leads to denial. You need to come face to face with what you currently spend. Afterwards, you’ll be much more likely to set a realistic budget amount for each expense and actually stick to it. If you’re not sure how much you really spend in a particular category, write down every purchase for a month or some period of time. This will give you a good idea how much should be budgeted for that category.
3. Pay attention to details.
Budgets fail because they are too general and missing information. If you’re struggling financially, and your current written budget balances (income = expenses) the first time you do it, then it isn’t detailed enough. You left out some expenses (or possibly overstated your income). Some common budget omissions are: License plates, auto and home repairs, book fees, school functions, stamps, fast food, trips to the vending machines, Christmas (believe it or not), or extra trips to the grocery. Even small purchases must be budgeted for because they can add up to a significant amount of money very quickly.
For the first several months, track “every” expenditure on paper and keep all receipts. You’ll need this information to make adjustments to your budget. It may take some time, but you’ll eventually find ways to reduce expenses and/or generate more income so that your budget will balance AND have ALL expenses included. However, you’ll always find yourself out of money if you leave out too many details.
4. Remember who your source is.
God promises financial increase as well as other blessings to those who bring the first 10% of all money they receive to their local church as a tithe. (Malachi 3:10) God also promises to meet your every need. Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (NIV) So, when your budget just isn’t adding up and the situation seems hopeless, remember that you’re serving a God who is incapable of failing you. If you lose your job, that’s ok because you didn’t lose your true source of income. He cannot and will not go back on His promises to increase you and meet your needs.
If you’ll take the time to budget your money and make the most of the other 90%, God will honor you’re efforts. Your diligence will pay off, both in personal satisfaction and in your wallet. Proverbs 21:5 – “The plans of the diligent lead to profit…” (NIV) Never give up. God rewards tithers and those who are good stewards of His money. Bring your tithes to your local church and manage the other 90% properly through the use of a financial budget and you will have no choice but to be blessed. Budget, plan, and work like your financial success is all up to you. Do your part, and God will do His.