Growing up, my mom taught my brother and I the importance of managing our money well and how important it was for us to give of our time, talents, and treasures. And, I wish I could tell you that I’ve always managed a budget and done everything I was supposed to do with money, but the cold-hard truth is that I haven’t.
I’ve failed more times than I can count with money but the only way that I’ve been able to get our finances back in order is to go back and rework the budget. Because usually, when we stumble with our money, it is because we’ve failed to manage the budget properly (or if we’re being really honest, failed to actually create the budget in the first place).
When we don’t budget, we have no idea how much money we have or don’t have.
A budget is a focus of trust and confidence in God when times are both plentiful and hard. It is a practical prayer for God’s provision through Jesus’ promise: “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matthew 6:32), because God does indeed know what we need, but without a budget we don’t know, and thus we allow the world to tell us what we need.
In other words, we may think that we need new clothes and we may think that we have the room in our budget for it, but without actually sitting down and counting the cost before we go shopping, guess what? We don’t know if we have the money to actually go shopping with.
Isn’t this exactly what Luke 14:28 talks about? We must sit down and calculate the cost BEFORE we spend the money. We are called to be wise and good stewards of our money because, when we are, we can glorify God through our good works. But we can also glorify God when we rise up and regain control over our money.
How do you budget?
Depending on where you are with budgeting and your season of life will determine how you budget. If you’re truly stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, I encourage you to try the Quick Start Budget, as it will help you break the cycle so you can regain control over your money.
If you’re not in the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, but you’ve never created a budget before, I encourage you read over the Beginner’s Guide to Budgeting (it’s super quick) to help you get started.
Once you have your budget in place, I encourage you to then look over your savings accounts and the debts you have. Do you have enough money in an emergency fund that if the breadwinner of your household lost their job your family would be fine for at least three months? If not, I encourage you to start saving at least a three-month emergency fund and adding that expense into your budget.
After you have a (small) savings account built up, I encourage you to consider paying off your debts. My family is almost 100% debt-free – our goal this year is to pay off the mortgage (only about $23k to go!) and then we will have no debts.
That means, no credit cards (we haven’t had one since 2013), no car loans, no personal loans, nada. And it’s wonderful – seriously, you don’t need debt to live an amazing life. We’ve been able to give money like I only ever dreamed of! It’s incredible.
After you’ve written down the debts you have, determine which one you’ll attack first. We prefer the “debt snowball” method but any method at all is better than nothing. And then determine how much from your budget you can afford to put towards debt.
Don’t get discouraged if you discover that you have no room in your budget to apply towards debt. Get creative! Seriously, there are a dozen things that you can do to earn additional money. I walked dogs for two years for additional income to throw at debt and even sold off many of our belongings on Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook yard sale groups.
But what does a budget have to do with tithing?
Well, the word “tithe” in Hebrew means 10% which means that we’re supposed to give back to God the first 10% of our money (Proverbs 3:9-10). Which means that if you take home $2,000 a month, you’re supposed to give $200 a month in tithe to the Church. And guess what? If you don’t have a budget then you likely have no idea if you’re even tithing enough or if you can even afford to tithe the full 10%.
Now, before we get too far into this, please know that I’m not judging you if you aren’t tithing because I know that we’ve struggled trying to make the full 10% happen in our household. What I’m simply telling you is that by living life by a budget, you’ll be able to actually tithe without worry over whether you can or cannot afford it.
Where does tithing fit?
So after you’ve determined how much you can save or apply towards paying off debt, you’re probably wondering where the heck you’re supposed to put tithing into your budget.
Well, here’s my advice – first figure out how much 10% of your monthly take-home pay is. Write that number down as the number you want to tithe.
Then go back and look at your budget – can you realistically tithe this money? If the answer is “no”, look for where you can cut in your budget. If you’ve already cut as much as you can then determine how much you can afford to tithe for right now and make sure you pray for the amount that God wants you to give.
Set the Goal
Now, once you know how much you want to tithe (the full 10%), it’s time to make that a goal if you can’t realistically make the full 10% happen right now. Because the truth it is, once you start paying off debts that are draining your budget and building up an emergency fund you’ll see that you will have more money in your budget to start making this goal a reality.
“One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.”
I’m a firm believer that God doesn’t want us to be “pretend” rich, but truly wealthy in all aspects of our lives and if we go around pretending to have money that we don’t actually possess, we’re unable to live as God intended us to. We’re unable to give of our treasures – not just in the form of tithing but also to those in need whom we meet.
I want to encourage you that if you’re struggling to figure out where God is leading you with money to first and always pray and then make your budget and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in where your abundant blessings should flow.
How about you? Is tithing already a part of your household habits? What has worked for you? How do you make tithing a realistic part of your budget without going broke?