Creating A Budget That Sticks

Moving From Stressed to Blessed

Josh Hossler | 02/19/2020

We just finished a three week series at our church called “From Stressed to Blessed”. We asked everyone to make three basic commitments:

  1. Get out of debt because debt weighs us down and holds us back (Proverbs 22:7)
  2. Honor God with our wealth by returning the first 10% to Him because this reveals our heart and opens us up for more of God’s blessing (Malachi 3:6-12; Matthew 23:23)
  3. Be wise by saving for the future setting us up for financial freedom and being a blessing to those around us (Proverbs 13:11)

Budgeting is the key to putting this all together. This article will show you how. If you do this, and make these three commitments, you WILL move from stressed to blessed.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Pr 3:9-10

How to Set & Stick with a Budget

[If budgeting is not something you struggle with, skip to the bottom and read my PS.]

1. SET A MONTHLY BUDGET MEETING

Before the next month comes, set a date and time to sit down and work on your budget. The goal is to have a budget set by the start of the next month. For us what works best is, I work on the budget ahead of time then bring a “draft” to this budget meeting and my wife work on it from there to work out any little items. Set a budget meeting and put in it in the calendar.

2. USE A BUDGETING FORM

We found that handwriting a budget really helped get the habit set in in the early years. For years we used a Dave Ramsey form. We printed it out and hand-wrote our budget every month. It really helped us stick to it because we had put effort into creating it. It was tangible. We could pull it out throughout the month, refer to it, and be reminded what we committed to. After several years, once the habits were built in, we began using a Numbers spreadsheet to save us time but the concepts are still the same.

3. ESTIMATE INCOME FOR THE COMING MONTH

What will your income be for the month? How many paychecks will you get? What is your take home pay for each of those? Do you have any other sources of income for the upcoming month? For those of you with irregular income or income that you aren’t sure on, always estimate conservatively. It’s much easier to decide what to do with extra income than extra expenses. What is your estimated income for the month?

4. MAKE A SPENDING PLAN

This is includes tithing and saving right off the top. If you don’t prioritize those they won’t happen. If you do not have an Emergency Fund, either $1,000 (starter) or 3-6 month’s living expenses, this is your first and most important priority after tithing. Calculate expenses (giving, saving, bills, etc.). Break down any annual expenses into monthly so you are saving for those too, and any other misc expenses for that month.

We operate with a zero based budget. Every dollar has a job. It may be “fun money”, it may be paying down debt, it just needs to have a job. Money that doesn’t have a job goes bye bye! Tell it where to go and what you want it to do.

Tip: if you have debt (especially consumer debt), use any extra to pay that off and use the debt snowball to rapidly get out of the hole you’re in. It’ll take some work, but you can do this! It feels so good once you’re free.

5. USE AN APP LIKE ANYLIST TO TRACK OTHER EXPENSES

My wife and I use AnyList (you can use any type of list app) to keep track of expenses we think of for the next month that are outside of our normal items – birthday parties we’re going to and need to buy gifts for, irregular purchases, things we’re saving for, etc. Our lists sync so we are keeping track of the list together. Review this list and add any appropriate expenses to your budget.

6. SET UP AUTOMATED ACTIONS

We automate as much as we can – tithing, giving, bill payments, savings, future bills, etc. Our regular giving is auto-drafted from our account. Our savings is auto-drafted into a separate saving account. Most of our bills are auto pay (make sure you know the amount that will be drafted each month). We even calculate annual or large expenses and save each month for those. These amounts are auto-drafted into a separate savings account for future bills. We then pull that money out to pay for those bills when they come.

7. PULL OUT CASH FOR KEY AREAS

This may not be necessary for everyone… BUT IT WAS FOR US! We ditched the credit cards even though we paid off our balance every month. Why? This is all about creating new habits and ways of relating to money. Credit cards allow us to be lazy. They are a safety net. Credit cards are what keep 90% of you from sticking to a budget. You don’t have to stick to it because you have the card to fall back on. Cut the cards and you’re forced to follow your budget. Cut the cards!

You will be amazed how much further your money goes and how much freer you feel. Still not convinced. Read my other post “3 Reasons You Need a Monthly budget”. You can do this and going cash, while mildly inconvenient, is THE WAY to go for 90% of the people I know.

We use auto bill pay for most of our bills. We use debit for gas for our vehicles. We use cash for EVERYTHING ELSE. We use cash for groceries, eating out, clothes, date money, etc. Anything where it would be easy to overspend.

Trust me, you can do this! We’ve been operating without credit cards for almost five years now and haven’t needed them once.

8. FINALIZE & TRACK YOUR BUDGET

Finalize your budget before he first of the month, pull out any cash you need for your budget categories (here is the envelope system we use), and track your spending throughout the month.

No cheating!!! A phrase that has stuck in my head is, “There’s no such thing as magic money!” If you’re going to spend money, you need to know where it’s coming from. Stick to the plan.

For the first few years we used Mint to help track our day to day budget. This kept us on track and at a glance we could see how we were doing. Now that the habits have been formed, we do not need this daily/weekly check in. We simply work our plan and review our budget as needed throughout the month.

At the end of the month, review any items from the previous month to reconcile. Did income come in as you planned? Were expenses lined up with your budget? Reconcile and make any necessary adjustments for the next month. That’s it!

IF YOU DO THIS…

Instead of feeling stressed every month, you will feel empowered. Instead of barely keeping your head above water (or worse), you can begin making progress. You will finally feel like you’re running your finances instead of your finances running you. You’ll also be amazed at how much further you can go with the same amount of dollars. It feels so good to see your goals being accomplished and your priorities being funded. It won’t be easy, but I promise you it will be worth it.

PS – For some of you, budgeting is not a struggle. Either you have enough money that things are not that tight or you already have the discipline you need to do it. The challenge for you then (and for all of us) is that our money should serve a higher purpose than just spending it all on ourselves. See, it’s really all God’s. God does want us to enjoy it but ultimately God wants us to maximize it for His purposes and His glory. My wife and I do our best to do this every month. We budget not just so we can pay the bills, but so we can honor our God and make the most of what He’s given us for time and eternity. I want to see the money God has given me make a difference for Him. THAT is where true joy and lasting happiness comes from. Let that be your motivation for creating a budget that sticks!

Now it’s time. No more excuses. No more delay. LET’S DO THIS!!!

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus (Matthew 6:21)

If you would like any of the forms mentioned in this post, email me at josh@evidentchurch.com and I’ll be glad to send them to you. Blessings!

Josh Hossler | Lead Pastor

Josh is the founding and Lead Pastor of Evident Church. He is passionate about helping people find their purpose and follow Jesus. Josh enjoys his family, preaching, leadership, writing, and is also is an adjunct professor of philosophy at Rochester University in Rochester Hills, MI. He and his wife Raelyn, have three daughters, AvaRae, AdaLyn, and AnaBel.

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