My husband and I are polar opposites when it comes to organization. He likes to have a plan for everything, especially our money. I'm more of a "fly by the seat of your pants" type of person. Too much structure makes me feel hemmed in and stifled.
As you can imagine, that has led to more than our fair share of "discussions" about everything from why there's so much clutter on the counter to how to spend our money.
A couple of years ago, my husband decided that we needed to have a written budget and go to a cash envelope system (thank you, Dave Ramsey). I was not interested. The written budget was OK, but the whole cash thing really threw me for a loop. I mean, who pays for anything in cash these days?
In my mind, things were fine the way they were. We had a mortgage but no other debt, and we were managing to save a little. Why mess with it if it's not broken?
But, my husband was insistent, so we switched to an all cash envelope system budget. That means we put cash in envelopes for things like groceries, gas, entertainment and clothing. When the envelopes were empty, that was it. I hated it. The thing I hated the most was having to go into the gas station to pay. That meant I had to haul my kids out of the car and into the gas station every time I filled up my car.
I also didn't like looking at the empty envelope and deciding we couldn't go out to dinner or to a movie because the entertainment envelope was empty.
However, as we worked at this system, it began to grow on me. We spent less. There's something about handing over cash that makes you think twice before spending it, and we began to whittle away at that mortgage. In less than five years from the time we made the switch, we were completely debt free.
Now, our income went up in that time because I started working more, but the budget made us more disciplined with our money.
A lot of money troubles come from not having a plan and sticking to it. Every family needs a written budget. A budget is simply a plan for your money that you and your spouse, if you have one, arrive at together. It lets you see exactly how far your money can go. It forces you to make choices about how you want to spend your money. And it helps us to be faithful with what God has given us.
Luke 16:10 tells us, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." God wants us to be faithful in using our money wisely, so He can trust us with even bigger responsibilities, monetary or otherwise. If we frivolously spend our money, go into debt and don't give a care for how God says we should spend it, then He's unlikely to trust us with more. But if we are faithful in the way we handle our money, then God knows that He can give us even greater responsibility and we will be faithful with it as well.
Start being faithful by creating a budget. List all your expenses and all your income. The expense column must be less than the income column. If it's not, you either need to reduce expenses or create more income because the Bible tells us not to go into debt (which is a topic we'll tackle in-depth tomorrow).
Once you have a plan, you and your family need to stick to it. When your kids see you sticking to a budget, they learn that being faithful with your money is important. My kids have learned that when the envelopes are empty, we don't go out or buy things. They may not like it, but they understand the idea.
Our kids need to know that money is not an unlimited resource and we have to make choices about what to do with it. God wants us to cover our needs, be prepared for tomorrow and take care of our fellow man. If we don't have a plan to do that, then we aren't being wise. Proverbs 21:5 says "The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty."
Teach your kids the value of a budget as early as they can understand the concept of money. Young kids can learn that they need to tithe 10 percent, save whatever percentage you decide and can spend the rest. That's a simple budget.
As kids get older, they can begin to budget for things like birthday and Christmas gifts, special activities they want to do and any miscellaneous purchases they want to make. Help them create a written budget, so they can see exactly where their money is going. Teenagers can begin budgeting for their own clothes, trips, gas for the car, car insurance and going out with their friends.
If we teach our kids the value of budgeting when they are young, it will be a habit that they can rely on when they get older.
Whether the system we use for budgeting is right for your family, is up to you, but every family needs a plan for their money. It's impossible to be faithful with what God has given you without a plan.