This is how a dedicated checking account is helping us give more this year!
Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV)
Pay the Lord First
“Pay yourself first” Many financial planning experts recommend automatic bank transfers to fund savings accounts with specific goals, retirement accounts, college savings accounts, and general investment accounts. By making these distributions first before any household spending, the money is more likely to be set aside and the goal reached.
As Christians, we are called to return to God a portion of His bounty first. Most Christians donate regularly to their faith community. Giving goes beyond the Sunday plate – many of us support small & large organizations doing great work and individuals going through difficult times.
In our house, we set our gift & donations amount at the beginning of the year in our budget’s Giving category, but I always wondered at the end of the year if we were doing enough. Sometimes I held back on donating to a new group because I wasn’t sure if it would throw my checking account of whack (and I keep a tight balance in our spending account because of so many goals!).
This year we’ve been examining our household budget closely and want to increase our Giving category. I needed to figure out a way to reach that goal without throwing the household budget into a loop each time something came up beyond the regular monthly donations.
Charitable Checking Account (aka Jesus’s $$)
The Sinking Fund concept is one of our family’s best financial planning tools. We have nearly a dozen savings accounts for specific goals – next vehicle, next tuition payment, house down payment, next vacation, etc. Our bank allows us to put a nickname (Next Car) on the account instead of keeping track of all those different numbers and their purposes – giving every dollar a name. Each payday, an automatic transfer from our general checking account goes into each account and brings us closer to a goal. This is a familiar saving strategy to families working on multiple savings goals.
This year we opened a separate checking account just for charity at our bank and initially nicknamed it the Donations Account. This isn’t one of those fancy charitable trusts that help you shelter contributions during the tax year without having to designate a beneficiary of the funds until the future. This is a simple checking account at our bank with its own set of checks (the basic checks from the bank were free of charge) with the single of purpose of being used for giving.
Why did we do this?
I’m an accountant by trade. I understand budgets, tracking, income & expenses, etc. At home, I make most of family finances easy and automatic … my free time is for quilting! I wanted to be accountable to our new giving goal without having to be an accountant at home all the time.
I looked back on past successes with our financial goals: When we prioritized retirement savings – we started with a small percentage and gradually increased the amount over time. All these contributions were automated. We never saw the money – we never missed it – we adjusted our household spending because the goal was important.
Some giving is easy to anticipate: church donations, favorite charities, and a few individuals receive checks each month through my bank’s electronic bill paying program. But there’s all these big & little opportunities for giving that come up throughout the year that can’t be anticipated.
Instead of trying to guess what might come up and when, we decided to set a goal of a specific dollar amount (which is a percentage of our paycheck) and make sure we donated it in some way throughout the year.
Each payday, a certain percentage of that paycheck is automatically transferred into our new Donations Account. Just like with our retirement account success, we plan to increase the percentage over time.
(After writing this article, I realized that my account nickname didn’t align with the spirit of the account. It’s new name is Jesus’s $$ and I smile every time I see it on my computer screen when I log into my bank online!)
Write the checks later
Regardless of whether the money has left our Jesus’s $$ account, we feel like we are still giving the Lord our first fruits each payday – and sending some of the checks every month and some of the checks later. Giving doesn’t have to be exact every month. His name is on the money!
We are only six months into our new system, and are seeing amazing results:
- We are giving so much more than in previous years. Our household budget had to downsize to deal with having little less spending money. But decreasing a few dinners out and other categories was a small sacrifice compared to the joy that comes from giving. Don’t you always seem to find more money when you make a detailed budget for something?
- We are able to start charitable projects that we thought would have to wait until we were either earning more money or no longer supporting our college-age children. My husband and I received many scholarships from our small community in Kansas when we went to college for our undergraduate & graduate programs. We are “paying that back” by offering book scholarships to our children and many nieces & nephews who will go to college in the fall.
- We are able to respond immediately when moved to help a cause or individual. Instantly, we know how much we have available to give. Immediately, I can write a check for a family who lost all their possessions in a fire or contribute to a grassroots community project – with no worries about where the money will come from in our household budget.
- Finally, I am already anticipating the joy of distributing the entire remaining balance in December as Christmas gifts to deserving charitable groups and hurting individuals.
Guide Dog for the Blind uses a John Wooden quote at many of their events: “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” Thanks to this new system of giving through a dedicated checking account, we are going to have more perfect days helping others with Jesus’s $$!
This guest post is part of the CPF Writer Auditions. Cherie has heard the call to help others with their financial struggles – especially military families through facilitating Financial Peace Military Edition & the FINRA Military Spouses Fellowship. With her son and daughter off to college, Cherie enjoys spending more time with her husband of 23 years, quilting, and supporting Guide Dogs for the Blind and Valley Humane Society with her career change Guide Dog, Miss Maybelle.