Create a Priority Driven Personal Budget
Updated: Sep 22
Budgeting With a Renewed Financial Mindset
When we renew our financial mindset as Christians, we realize that God promises to provide for our essential needs and that anything above that – including our wants and desires – is given to us by God’s blessings and favor. As Christians, first we worship and serve God through Christ, and then we faithfully trust in God’s provision for our needs and His wisdom for blessings.
In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructs us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:13 NASB). The literal translation is “Give us tomorrow’s bread today.” We are to ask God to provide our daily needs before we need them.
At the same time, able-bodied Christians are not to sit and pray for their needs to be handed to them. In his second letter to the Thessalonian church, Apostle Paul talks about Christians who are not working and expecting God and the church to give them their needs (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12 NASB):
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat (free church meals), either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now we command and exhort such persons in the Lord Jesus Christ to work peacefully and eat their own bread.
As long as we are able physically and mentally, we work to receive our own bread, or money to buy our own bread. As we age, we will be more limited physically and mentally, which affects whether or not or how much we can work. Or we may suffer an injury, disability or illness that limits us from working. It is wise to prepare for those times with investments and insurance.
God provides for our needs through our work, which is a blessing, and through gifts, which come from His favor. Our renewed Christian mindset sees work as a blessing and opportunity to serve God. In his letter to the Colossian church, the Apostle Paul says that God is our employer (Colossians 3:23-24 NASB):
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people, knowing that it is from the Lord that you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.
Our rewards are here and now as well as hereafter. Through our work and God’s favor, we have an income to meet our needs. Our spending will determine how much becomes our inheritance or savings.
To keep our renewed perspective about needs before wants, we use tool that many people dread - a monthly budget.
A budget limits our ability to spend the money that God has blessed us with. Naturally we resist limits, especially in America where we value independence. But if we don’t limit ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of our needs and prepare for times when our needs cannot be met immediately.
Among Christians, there is a popular “rule of thumb” for budgeting that says, “Pay God His 10 percent tithe to the church, pay yourself your 10 percent savings, and spend the other 80 percent.” There is another popular rule that says, “Live on half of what you make and save the other half.” Another popular rule says, “Pay your bills, then pay yourself.”
Let’s renew our minds about budgeting. Instead of focusing on budget percentages, let’s focus on our spiritual priorities. What do we know about God’s priorities?
Live – This is what it takes for you and your family to survive. It is where your basic needs are met: water, food, home (electricity, insurance, furniture, upkeep), clothes, medicines, basic technology (mobile phone, computer, internet service), transportation, family visits. Focus first on the bare minimum for each need, not the ideal desire.
Repay – This is debt payments, which may or may not be related to the Live priority: rent, mortgage, credit cards, vehicle loans, medical bills, back taxes, student loans. Eliminate debts to stop high interest taking income resources.
Give – This is an act of faith and worship to God by helping others, especially fellow Christians. Church, charity, missionaries, opportunities.
Save – This is wise preparation for times of famine when income may be scarce, but also for future large purchases. Savings includes: emergency funds, income savings, savings goals, and some insurance policies.
Invest – This is using savings to buy, hold and sell securities (funds, stocks, bonds, gold, etc.) in order to grow the blessings God has provided faster than the rate of inflation. Examples include: retirement IRAs, bridge accounts, brokerage accounts, and some insurance instruments.
Flex – This is space for the unexpected expenses every month. If it is not used, it goes into another category for the next month.
Enjoy – These are our wants and desires. Examples: streaming subscriptions, restaurants, fast food, sports and entertainment tickets, vacation trips, kids activities, pets, books, pools, boats, and more.
What is so tricky about budgeting in America is that we “supersize” our needs and lose our spiritual perspective. For example, if you live in the suburbs, you need a car. You could buy a good, basic car that is three or four years old, depending on the mileage and quality. Let's say you have enough money saved to buy the basic car without any debt. But, that basic car is small when you put two kids in the back seat, it doesn’t have the newest technology, it’s not your favorite color, and its engine isn’t real powerful for slicing and dicing the highways. You could afford to put into your budget a monthly car loan for the next five years on a car that you want because it’s “better.” The car you want is only two years old and has a heads-up display, high gas mileage, a better engine, more leg room, a sunroof, and even better, it’s your favorite color.
What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with getting the better car with a monthly car loan? A car loan is not a sin, but it is a burden. It is borrowing money we do not have, and betting on the future that God knows and we do not. That care loan may not be wise. Back in 2019 we could never have imagined a pandemic shutdown and the economic hardships it caused.
We make this “basic car versus better car” decision every day. For lunch, bringing a sandwich from home versus going to a sandwich shop. At the grocery store, a pound of ground hamburger versus a steak filet. These few dollars difference every day add up and make a huge spending difference from our budget, because it’s all about a mindset attitude and spending habit. A budget is only as good as your ability to stick to it.
We aren’t saying that you cannot enjoy wants and desires. If we were, then Enjoy would not be a budget priority category. What we are saying is that Enjoy is the last category, and it should be self-controlled, because already our wants and desires run amok, make their way into the Needs category and mess it up. Our wants and desires create more debt we pay to banks instead of giving to others, saving for future needs, or investing for growth.
Will you renew your mind to think basic needs first? Will you budget to live first, and your enjoyment last? Start a new budget from scratch. First enter what you currently spend from your Financial Snapshot. Use real dollar amounts, not percentages. Follow the 7 Spending Priorities to create a renewed budget, with a renewed mindset.
If you would like help with your renewed budget, contact us and request our basic budget sheet. We can look over it with you and coach you to track your results and practice new spending mindset habits. You can flip the script and pay yourself more than the banks!