Following are the important elements that will assist you in developing a Christian budget for you or for your family.
1. Budget together as a family. If you are married, it is extremely important that you and your spouse plan the budget together. Imagine what a tremendous teaching example this can be for your children!
2. List all of your expenses. In order to understand a budget, you must know exactly what you are spending. Sometimes a husband and wife can lead separate lives financially and have no idea what the other is doing. If credit cards are abused, expenses can careen out of control, leading to painful experiences in debt. For a budget to work, both husband and wife must be honest about expenses. So, take a sheet of paper and list your expenses.
3. Prioritize your needs. After specifically itemizing the expenses, you need to decide which expenses are the most important and the first to be paid. Food, shelter, utilities, clothing and transportation are the basic necessities that should be at the top of the priority list. Within a Christian budget, one must not forget to give God what belongs to Him. (For a more complete discussion on tithing, please see our article “Tithing: What Is It?”) If you do not have a steady income or if you are at a place in your life where the outgo is exceeding the income, use this process for prioritizing your needs. When one is “down in the dumps” and without a plan, it can be easy to spend recklessly.
4. Learn to say “No”! It may not be easy, but learning to say no will go a long way in helping to balance a Christian budget and avoid the trap of excessive debt. If it isn’t in the budget, then it shouldn’t be purchased at this time. The mantra of Western culture seems to be, “Why wait when you can have it now?” Advertisements scream: “Buy now—pay later!” “Easy credit terms!” “No interest, no payments until [month and year].” “Sign and drive!” It all seems very enticing—and even more so when it means that new car, flat-screen TV or living room furniture can be yours today! But should they be? Why wait? The answer is found in the Scriptures: “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Proverbs 22:7). The deeper in debt we become, the greater the problems for our budget and family finances. “Just say no” applies to more than illegal drugs!
5. Increase your education. Most of us would like to make more money than we do. Would your income improve if you were to get a degree, trade certification or learn a new skill or trade? It may not be possible to go back to college and get a degree (or it may take years of night school), but there are other ways to make yourself more valuable to an employer. Take advantage of continuing education programs that may be offered by your company or in your profession. Study and seek more advanced certifications in your field. Perhaps apprentice under one more knowledgeable and skilled in your field, or seek such a person as a mentor. King Solomon once wrote, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:5-7). In the working world, wisdom and understanding require education. Investing wisely in your education may be one of the best financial investments that you can make.