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Balancing the Budget

Money.

This topic applies to everyone; teens, young adults, newly weds and those who are older and wiser than the rest of us.  Anyone who has some kind of money coming in and some kind of money going out can relate to the struggle of balancing the budget.

You all know that moment when you log in to your online bank account and brace yourself as the numbers flash onto the screen.  Sometimes its a pleasant surprise and there’s more money than you thought, but if you’re anything like me, most times its quite the opposite.  Lately I’ve been getting that sinking-of-the-stomach feeling too often.  December is always a big month for spending and this year Alex and I were both in a wedding in January.  If you’ve ever been in a wedding before you know exactly what I’m talking about…

So we’ve been having a bit of a reality check (that’s putting it mildly).

But amidst all of that, I’ve been mentally reviewing the financial lessons I’ve been taught all my life and realizing I have more than enough tools to get through this tight season.  Here are some of the top tips I’ve been given about balancing the budget.

Tip #1: Know exactly what’s coming in and what’s going out.

Take a moment to go back through your account from Jan. 1-31 and write down exactly how much money you made (I do after deductions to get a clearer idea of what I’m working with).  Then go back through and add up everything you spent in the month.  I usually divide this up into categories like: Set expenses (mortgage/rent, car payment, insurance, etc.) and Variable expenses (groceries, gas, clothing, eating out, etc.)  Once you’ve added it all up see if you’re spending more than your making.  If so, go stand in the bathroom, look straight in the mirror and say out loud “I have a spending problem”.  Seriously, do it.  The first step is admitting the problem, right?  If you’re making more than you’re spending, pat yourself on the back, stop reading this blog, and pour yourself a glass of wine to celebrate (unless you’re under age, or pregnant, or don’t drink of course).

Tip #2: Find ways to cut back

Now that you’ve admitted your problem, do something about it!  Don’t ignore it and pretend it will go away like the Shopaholic did.  Go back over your monthly spending and see where you can cut back.  For us it’s always eating out that needs to go first.  Buying groceries and eating meals at home is such a huge money saver.  As well, taking a lunch, making your own coffee, bringing a water bottle, carrying snacks in your purse (or back pocket if you’re a manly man who won’t carry a murse) – all of these things can keep you from wasting money on food while you’re out and about.  Another way to cut back is to experiment with some creative handmade options.  For example I’m getting baby stuff together for our little peanut and some of it can be so expensive.  So instead of buying all new bedding, I found some crib bumpers at MCC Thrift Store for $3, washed them and re-covered them.  The fabric I found was only $17 so in total I spent $20 on something that would be closer to $75-100 brand new.  Have a look!

Pretty cute aren’t they?  There are all kinds of ways to cut back…make it yourself, thrift, have  clothing swap, use coupons, buy the items you need, on sale.  Ask yourself the question, “Do I need this or want this?” and if you just want it, leave it.

Tip #3: Commit your finances to the Lord

Though I’m writing it last, it is the most important piece of advice I’ve ever been given regarding my finances.  This means even when things are tight, we still tithe our 10%.  It means when we’re feeling stressed about money, we go to Jesus and lay our worries at his feet.  It means we choose to trust his promise that he will “give us this day our daily bread” and “provide for all of our needs”.  It means we don’t allow money to become an idol, either by worshiping the abundance we have, or spending all of our time stressing about what we don’t have. God cares about your budget.  He wants you to be a good steward of what he’s given you, to take wise risks, to invest, to give generously and to provide for yourself and your family.

What are some of the best tips you’ve been giving to help with balancing the budget and using your money in a wise and godly way?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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