Budget to Give

I think a lot of God's people would admit that they enjoy giving, and that they want to give more.

But many feel hindered, because they feel their financial situation doesn't afford them the ability to give as much as they'd like.  Thus, the idea of giving more seems a bit frightening, because they fear they simply cannot afford to give more than they presently do. Maybe you are one of those people.

Let me ask you a simple question...

How much money do you make on a monthly basis?

It's really a simple question.  But it's a question that I believe a lot of people cannot accurately answer.  My guess is that you probably don't really know either.

For a living, I work as a mortgage underwriter on the foreclosure side of a really big bank.  As a result, I've had the opportunity to review the personal financial statements of a lot of different people.  In the standard paperwork my bank asks people to fill out, people are asked to disclose their monthly income.  When I compare what people write down as their monthly income, to what I actually calculate after reviewing their last several paychecks, I usually discover what a person thinks they make on a monthly basis is very different than what they actually make on a monthly basis.

Having reviewed thousands of personal financial statements, I am of the opinion that most people in America simply do not know how much money they make!

And if people don't know how much money they make on a monthly basis, I think it is fairly safe to assume that they don't know what their monthly expenses are either.

Honestly, I believe that most people simply hope to have money left over at the end of every month.  And usually, they are right, and that is enough for them.  But many people learn the hard way, and eventually find out that they were guessing wrong, and don't have enough money to cover all their expenses.

Don't be one of those people.  As much as I enjoy being employed at the bank, I don't want to see your loan application on my desk asking for help so that you can avoid foreclosure.

Instead of being a person who thinks they make enough money to cover their monthly expenses, become the type of person who knows exactly what they make on a monthly basis, and who knows exactly what their monthly expenses are.

But the only way you can do that is if you take charge of your personal finances and make a monthly budget.

I know... not exactly fun stuff.  Some people would rather go to the dentist than make a budget.

But if you are to be a responsible steward of the financial blessings God has provided you in your life, making a budget is the only way you can get on top of your personal finances.  And if you are looking to be a "cheerful giver" as the Bible teaches, there is no way you can find joy in writing checks that you fear may possibly bounce, or cause you to get behind on your other bills.

Making a budget requires that you first analyze your personal finances by going line by line through your bank statements, and find out exactly how much money you take home on a monthly basis, and exactly how much you spend.  Of course, since expenses vary month to month, it is best to analyze a full year worth of bank statements so that you can get a general average.

In this process, you will likely discover that you are spending far more in certain categories on a monthly basis than you were previously aware.  I think most people discover that they spend far more on eating out, shopping, and home repair/maintenance than they thought they did.

I remember analyzing the bank statements of one person at work, and discovered that they spent about $1,000 eating out on a monthly basis.  Such was almost the amount of their monthly mortgage payment, which they had fallen behind on.

I didn't have the opportunity to talk to this man about his personal monthly expenses, but I bet if I were to have asked him if he ate out that much, he would deny spending as much as he does at restaurants.  And a lot of people are like that, in denial about what they spend and where they spend it.

But that's what is so amazing about a budget.

A budget forces you to be honest about your spending habits.  A budget forces you to deal with reality, and not simply what you think is going on.  In making a budget, you do as personal finance guru Dave Ramsey says, and "name every dollar, instead of wondering where every dollar went."  A budget helps you take control of your spending habits, so you can better direct where your money goes.  Instead of doing this...

A lot of Christians write checks "in faith."

That is, they write a check hoping that it clears before other checks do, and that they will get paid before all the other checks have a chance to clear.  They do this with everything from tithe checks to mortgage payments.

God doesn't want you to have that kind of faith.  When it comes to "tithing" or making your mortgage payment on time, God is much more interested in your being "faithful" than He is whether or not if you can write a check not knowing where the money is going to come from to pay the bills this month.

Being faithful means not writing a bad check that has the potential to bounce.  And if you are living off a budget, you will never need such "faith."

Some Christians like to tell stories about how they tithed, not knowing where the money was going to come from in order to pay their mortgage or other bills, and that God miraculously provided for them in the end.

I'm not going to say such never happens.  But let's be real.

Churches process bounced tithe checks on a weekly basis.  And banks regularly foreclose on homes owned by Christians who practice such check writing habits.

If you can't afford to tithe AND pay your bills this month, pay your bills first and learn to make a budget so that you can actually afford to give.  Write your tithe check later, it's ok, God won't curse you if He doesn't get it this week.

The point of developing a budget as a Christian is so that you and I don't have to live by such "faith."  Rather, we develop a budget so that we can be the faithful, and show that we are faithful by our ability to follow through.

As Christians, we live in the belief that God has already provided for all of our needs, and we adjust our lifestyle in accordance with what God has actually supplied.

When we track our monthly income and expenses, and create a budget, we do so in order that we can take control of our personal finances.  Such a process is something that actually honors God.  And we do this so that we can afford to live a lifestyle that not only honors God, but so that we can be liberal and generous in our giving habits.  We do this so that others may enjoy the grace that God has given us.

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