Stop Budgeting! Start Spending
Renew Your Money Mindset with a Wise Spending Plan
The first thing we’re told to do to manage our personal finances is to make a budget. Simply put, a budget is a list of categories and how much money we expect to spend in those categories, usually in a month. During the month, we track how much money we spent in the categories, and we determine whether or not we “stuck to the budget.” Did we spend more or less than we expected in each category? Was our total spending for the month more or less than our income? When we spend more than our income, we have pay for that from our savings or we add to our debts.
Businesses budget. They hire experts to budget for them.
Governments budget. They hire experts to budget for them.
Both spend more than their incomes all the time. There are more businesses and governments in debts and losses and deficits than there are profitable and solvent.
If all of their professional experts can’t budget, how can we – the amateurs – expect to budget our personal finances any better? We can hire people to budget for us. But that's not the key to budgeting.
None of us can see the future clearly. But God can. Let’s start with what He has already revealed to us. Then we’ll build a monthly Spending Plan. Keeping in mind the wisdom from Proverbs 19:9 (NASB)
The mind of a person plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
The key to “budgeting” is in the spending. Spending requires wisdom, discernment, self-control, open communication, coordination and responsibility. These are character traits, not math skills. Anyone can budget. Wise spending takes some Holy Spirit power inside you. God directs our steps. A financial coach can help you take those steps, but you are the one who has to walk the walk. Here are those first steps in a wise Spending Plan, based on the Bible's book of wisdom, the Proverbs.
Living – These are the survival categories of compounded needs. Living expenses must happen. They are what keep you and your family fed, clothed, and sheltered. Transportation and communication also are survival necessities to get the food and possibly go to the job that pays for the living expenses. Medical and fitness/wellness expenses also could be required Living expenses. Some Living expenses are fixed – they are pretty much the same every month, and we don’t have much control over them, or if we do it’s a pain to reduce them (think insurance, rent, water, electricity, cell phones). Some Living expenses are variable – they change every month. Variable expenses outside our control change prices all the time. Variable expenses in our control are the buying decisions we can make every single day. For example, the price of gas changes, and I have to decide whether or not to buy the gas, how much to buy, and when to buy it. But it’s a necessity, the car or truck needs gas. If we work faithfully, God will take care of our needs (Proverbs 28:19; Proverbs 31:13-15)
Repaying – These are principal debts we owe, plus interest that we pay the money lender. These debt repayments must happen. They are usually the same fixed payments every month, and they are difficult for us to change. House mortgage, vehicle loans, student loans, medical bills, and personal loans are repayments. Some debts are variable payments; credit cards are the worst. The payments are different every month and the interest rates can change; usually they go up. (Proverbs 22:7)
Giving – For the Christian, giving money to others should happen. Giving is a high priority because generosity is an expression of love, and we are told by Christ to love our neighbors and we would want to be loved. Each of us have a responsibility to determine whether we will give to others from our income sacrificially before our Living Expenses and Repayments, or responsibly after them. We determine with God in our hearts how much and who to give to, prioritizing our fellow Christians. If we are members of a local church, we should give to that church. (Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 22:9; Proverbs 28:27; Proverbs 31:20)
Saving – Saving should happen every month. It is wise to save some of the resources that God provides us in the bountiful times to be prepared for lean times and seasons. It is not wise to hoard. We designate our savings for emergencies, survival living expenses, and large future purchases (from furniture to vehicles to college educations to houses). We also save for annual expenses we know will happen, such as taxes and Christmas. The more we can save ahead of time, the less we will have to Repay. (Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 13:11; Proverbs 14:21)
Investing – Investing should happen every month as well. Investing is wise to make money grow and work for us. It is how God blesses us more than we can on our own. There is some risk involved, so it takes knowledge and help from experts. But it’s essential to prepare for season when we will not be able to easily work for income. And investments can supplement our income so that we do not have to work so hard for so long. Don’t think of investing only in terms of retirement someday, think of it as additional blessings today. (Proverbs 11:24-26; Proverbs 13:22; Proverbs 31:16-17)
Flexing – Expect the unexpected. We need money available for the monthly trials in life that will come our way. House repairs, car maintenance, shoes for the kids, ER visits, etc. There is always something that will take $500 fast. This is not an emergency savings fund, this is just flexibility to handle some or all of an unexpected cost, or a Living Expense that is more than anticipated. (Proverbs 21:20; Proverbs 31:18)
Enjoying – Everything else is gray area. That’s why it is last. It is all variable and it is all in our control. Anything that involves a restaurant, a streaming service, a ticket, a hotel room, a pet whatever, a plane ticket, a cruise ship, a piece of equipment, an instrument, a book, decorations, toys, and on and on. These are the wants that disguise themselves as needs and force their way into the Living expenses when actually they are not required for survival at all. They are abundance blessings, but they can fool us into stealing our money and God’s provisions. (Proverbs 13:7; Proverbs 21:17)
When you feel like your personal finances are out of control, and you are drowning in debt, you must ask God to help you see what is required for Living and Repaying. These are the steps you can see in front of you. They are not “baby steps.” It will take courage and character to say “no” to the Enjoying until the Living and Repaying is under control and the Giving, Saving, Investing and Flexing are established.
Budgeting is the math it takes to put numbers to the 7 spending categories. But a wise Spending Plan is what we need to get to Financial Freedom.
Ideally, how much should you spend in each of the 7 Spending Plan categories? Start with these ideal Financial Freedom percentages as a guide, and compare your actual spending to them:
Your current situation may look much different than the ideal. Let’s pretend you are the typical American living paycheck to paycheck, carrying credit cards, vehicle loans, and other debt payments, and your living expenses increased with inflation:
This is not sustainable! You'll continue to be stuck in an unhappy, burdened debt cycle. God has so much more for you. To renew your mindset with a wise Spending Plan, this is what the percentages might look like to attack your debt burdens and start to save and invest in the future:
You are going to need to make some tough decisions on your Spending Plan. But don’t be too tough on yourself and expect it to be perfect the first month. It can take 3 months of tracking and changing to get the Spending Plan worked out to your advantage. Then every month you will need to anticipate the next month’s expenses and prepare for the unexpected.
At Andrews Financial Coaching, we're here to help you with spiritual financial coaching to set up your Spending Plan that you can achieve with God’s help. Take your first steps with a coach alongside. You can schedule a financial coaching session today!