You Probably Can't Afford to Tithe

Many pastors have been known to boldly stand in the pulpit and proclaim, "You can't afford not to tithe!"

Many of these pastors have never sat down and tried to make a budget with the people they are preaching to. They've never sat down and done the math.

As I will demonstrate in this brief essay, the average family of 4 making $50,000 a year probably cannot afford to tithe.

The financial assumptions I am making in this essay assumes a family of 4, where the husband is the sole wage earner in the family, and where the wife is a full-time stay at home mother who stays home to take care of the kids. I assume they own 1 car outright, and have an auto loan on another. I assume they have a mortgage that is reflective of 25% of their gross monthly income (which is pretty common). Because it is the law of the land, I am operating under the assumption the household is fully insured. I assume this family has no credit card, student loan, or medical debts. I assume this family is not making any contributions to retirement savings.

Since I personally live and work in the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area, I am going to assume taxes and living expenses that are in keeping with a person who lives in the suburbs of my living area. I work as a mortgage underwriter for a living, so some of my assumptions come from being regularly exposed to the personal finances of a lot of people, as well as the general lending standards of most banks. Please feel free to adjust these expenses based on where you live to see if what I say pans out.

Using the PaycheckCity.com calculator, I have determined that a married man living and working in North Carolina making a fixed salary of $50,000 a year will gross $961.54 a week before taxes/social security, and will net $738.58 after. His gross monthly income ($961.54 x 52 / 12) is $4,166.67, and his monthly take home pay is $3,200.51.

Monthly Gross: $4,166.67
Monthly Net: $3,200.51

Itemized expenses:
Tithe 10%: $416.67
Mortgage payment: $1,041.67
Groceries: $850.00
Water Bill: $50.00
Electric Bill: $150.00
Gas bill: $50.00
Home/Cell Phones: $150.00
Clothing: $50.00
Auto Loan: $200.00
Auto Insurance: $100.00
Auto Gas: $100.00
Auto Maintenance (Tires/Oil/Taxes/Inspections): $150
Health/dental/vision insurance: $200.00
Miscellaneous: $100.00
Total monthly expenses: $3,608.34

Monthly budget deficit: -$407.83

Based off these rough, and rather conservative monthly budget figures that I used, I have concluded that the average family of 4 living in the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area making $50,000 a year simply cannot afford to tithe. Without their tithe, this family of 4 would be lucky to break even on a monthly basis. They don't even have room for regular monthly savings, let alone money to contribute to a retirement account.

In order to pay their tithe, this family would ultimately be forced to skip out on some other bills in order to make the math work, or they would be forced to radically downsize their current lifestyle... which is already pretty conservative.

So the next time a preacher tells you that you can't afford not to tithe, ask to sit down with them and work out a budget with you, and ask him how this math works. Because as far as I'm concerned, as somebody who crunches numbers for a living, I do not believe that the average family of 4 that is lower middle class and below can actually afford to tithe on a monthly basis, and still stick to their monthly budget. Of course, there may be some exceptions to this, as everybody's scenario is ultimately unique.

How does your monthly budget work? If you can afford to pay your tithes and all of your monthly bills, and are a family of 4 making $50,000 or less a year, I would be interested in you sharing your monthly budget with me and my readers in the comment fields below.

Please, show me the math.

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