budgetBy: Andrew Hale

How good are you at budgeting?

Let me ask it this way. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being a bankrupt pro-athlete and 10 being Dave Ramsey, Jr.), where do you land? In 2015, I would have rated myself a “6” or “7.” My wife and I are both fairly frugal—we don’t tend to waste money or spend frivolously. We have savings goals and we reject the notion of debt unless absolutely necessary. We’re on track and living in financial freedom, right?

So I get paid every week. With each check, I would give our tithe, pay the “budgeted” bills, and set aside the targeted amount for savings in the safety of our “savings account.” Then, my wife and I would live of the rest. Eating out, recreation, and even unexpected expenses would be taken from the overflow of each weekly paycheck after our necessary giving, expenses, and saving goals were met. Yet I still felt like we were missing something, and towards the end of 2015 God began to convict me that we were leaving some resources on the table.

Here’s an example of a budget that gets 6 out of 10:

Monthly earnings—$3000

  • Tithe—$300
  • Rent—$700
  • Savings—$500
  • Monthly Bills—$850
  • Live off the Rest—$650 (Groceries, Gas, Eating Out, Entertainment, Unexpected Expenses, etc.)

I imagine many of you have a budget that looks like the above (customized to your broad line items). But what if you could get more out of your leftovers? What if you could maximize the “$650” for the kingdom of God? What if you could find ways eventually to reduce the monthly bills line-item and increase the tithing/giving line-item? God continued to put these questions on my heart.

I began to research and review budgeting software on the market. I considered everything from free resources such as Mint.com to more expensive options such as Quickbooks or Quicken. But one day during my random internet searches, I stumbled upon software called “You Need A Budget” (YNAB). Presumptuous maybe, but it caught my attention nonetheless. So after reviewing the website and the company’s four main rules, I decided to give the 34 day free trial a shot. Much to my surprise, they didn’t ask for a credit card, social security number, or bank information. They simply wanted an email.

They first thing I noticed when I opened the fancy spreadsheet was the first listed category: “Charitable Giving.” And the first sub-category under Charitable Giving? “Tithing.” I knew I was on to something good.

The whole premise of YNAB is budgeting to zero. This means every dollar you have (or don’t have) and every dollar you will eventually earn is given a job immediately. The categories and sub-categories are limitlessly customizable, so you assign dollars to anything from your child’s future college fund to your dog’s unexpected vet needs. The key is this… You will never go to your bank account again to decide how much you want to spend at the grocery store or if you can go out to eat. You will go to your budget (YNAB.) You’ll begin to find dollars that you didn’t know you had and save dollars you normally would have spent without considering them. YNAB ensures every dollar you earn is as important as the dollars you spend on your most valuable outflows: tithing, mortgage, savings, you name it.

Is YNAB just a fancy way of doing an old fashioned budget? Yes. But can YNAB revolutionize the way you spend and save money? Probably. If you’re not currently using a budgeting process that demands you to budget to zero, I encourage you to investigate YNAB or another process that will cause you to do so. Imagine your finances getting to a point where you don’t have to break the savings account (or worse, take out the credit card) every time an unexpected expense pops up. Imagine your finances being so free that when you encounter a financial need of someone else, you can meet it without hesitation.

As Christ followers, we must be good stewards of His resources—we must take command of our finances. Remember, taking command of your finances doesn’t mean foreseeing every unknown expense. It means budgeting for the ones you can and rolling with the rest.

I would love to read your comments below.

Andrew Hale currently serves as Associate Pastor of Education and Discipleship at Turning Point at Calvary in St. Augustine, FL. He earned his Doctor of Ministry focusing on church planting and revitalization through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in May 2015. You can connect with Andrew on both Twitter and Facebook.

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