Did your New Year’s reflections lead you to consider your time and treasure? If you have a goal of financial generosity, let me share a few tips on how you can prioritize your spending.
Start with prayer
If we live, then give we will be less generous than if we give then live. Which is more important? A healthy relationship with money reflects a healthy relationship with God. Income is a gift. God hasn’t held back with provision in the leanest of times or in the bountiful harvest. So first talk to God through the gift of prayer and meditate upon the wisdom in Scripture.
Where your treasure is there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:21
Now let’s switch to the nuts and bolts. How do we get our plan to align with our passion? A spending plan helps define and track the goals of your heart—kind of like a nutrition plan ensures you have the right balance of healthy options to keep your heart functioning at its best. Think about your passions and how they line up with the range of choices you have. There are always unlimited spending options and limited income. The decisions can be overwhelming, but when you start to feel that way, go back to your heart. It will lead you to God’s heart.
Now for the nitty-gritty
- Calculate your monthly income.
- Subtract your monthly giving (both tax deductible and non-tax deductible giving), then savings, then taxes, then debt. The balance is what you have for living expenses.
- List the fixed expenses that you don’t have much flexibility to change (utilities, car insurance, gasoline, medical).
- With your remaining monthly funds carve out a plan for your variable expenses (food, entertainment, eating out, clothing, travel, etc.).
You may find that to accomplish your goals related to giving and saving that you need to re-examine your variable living expenses. Your plan for giving can adjust as your assessment of variable expenses determines whether your current status aligns with your priorities.
Sit with your spending plan. Think about it. Pray about it. How do the plans and passions you have charted fit with the plan as it is right now? As you work on your spending plan, it’s important to think about where God has you now and what is on your heart. Are changes far off or do you sense that they are coming soon? Whenever income changes, you’ll want to use that as an opportunity for a fresh start on your spending plan.
I recommend the free online budgeting tool www.mint.com. Find a friend or advisor who can keep you accountable. This would be someone who both trusts you with their goals and who you can trust to encourage you with Christ-like optimism. If you find it hard to stick to what your budget deems as priorities, consider a cash envelope system to track and plan for the variable expenses. Start with just one or two categories where you are inclined to overspend and use cash.
Try again. And again. Give yourself grace. And be reminded that you can never out-give God. Know where your money is going so you can always find the treasure!