During the month of May COMPASS is giving space for conversations and questions about “What’s Next?” Specifically we are thinking about budgeting and student loans during and after graduation and the life transitions that commonly begin during this month. Today we welcome back Beryl Jantzi from Everence to the blog.
“Now concerning the collection for saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches in Galatia. On the first day of every week each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.” – I Corinthians 16:1.
“Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me how you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”– James W. Frick
Anything of importance requires planning. Paul speaks to this in I Corinthians 16 as it relates to our giving commitments and James Frick addresses this point from the perspective of setting priorities. We are all familiar with the quote that “if we fail to plan – we plan to fail.” Well, who of us would want to plan to fail?
My wife and I started out our marriage with very clear commitments in our giving, saving and spending practices. We established separate accounts for these priorities in our life. These decisions made it easier to say no to things we may have wanted to do but that we needed to hold off on because of other priorities. Without these commitments being in place we would have very easily given into impulsive buying rather than staying true to what we knew would serve us and our daughters well in the long term. Following are three baby steps to begin developing your own financially balanced life.
Little things add up
It’s difficult to make decisions on how you’d like to manage your money if you have never taken a look at where you spend it. To get the real picture on your finances, try keeping a spending diary for the next month. Write down every purchase and then bring that information together with your checkbook registry and credit card statement and list all your spending for the month. The information you gather will show you some habits that you may not be aware of. For example if you download three songs a week at $.99 you are on track to spend $155 per year. Or maybe your discretionary spending goes towards Starbucks coffee or purchasing 2-3 different newspapers a day. Keep track and consider the annual costs.
The next step is to find a simple budget form in which to log your monthly financial activity. Start with your income, using your take home pay – or your disposable income. This will make you aware of what you have to work with. Some think that all they need to do is live within their income which means not spending more than you earn. To a certain extent this is correct but a better rule is to live below your means. It’s possible to live within your means and still be one pay check away from a financial crisis. Budgeting helps us know how much of a safety cushion we have. Living below our income means we place extra income aside for emergencies and have extra to give away as we feel compelled to reach out to others.
The fun part of finding financial balance is to see what money is coming in. The not so exciting part is to realize how much is going out. Logging the information from our daily spending diary along with our bigger expenditures like housing, transportation, debt payment, and groceries can be a daunting exercise – but a necessary one.
If you discover that what is going out is more than what is coming in you need to seek help to correct this practice. This is not sustainable and will become an overwhelming barrier not only to your financial future but your emotional and spiritual well-being also. To help you engage in these practices check out the following resources available from Everence:
Creating a budget guide
LSS budget and debt counseling – 6 free phone based sessions with a professional debt counselor
About the Author: Beryl Jantzi currently serves as Stewardship Education Director for Everence, a Christian-based, member-owned financial services organization which is a ministry of Mennonite Church USA and other churches.
This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook, and ESC on Twitter.