Monday, September 14, 2009

Budgeting 101 - Part 3

Now it's time to begin 'establishing a perimeter'.  You have your pencil, Basic Spending Plan, calculator and recent bank statements?  Good.  Let's get started.

One of the FAQs I receive is whether to budget weekly or monthly?  The answer is more complicated that I'd like.  The simple answer is; whatever works best for you.  Since most bills are monthly, that option is the one normally pursued.  But some, like car insurance or property taxes are quarterly or even annually.  That complicates things just a bit.  Here's what I recommend.  I recommend budgeting 'per paycheck'. I'll use house payments as the example.  Take the monthly payment and multiply it by 12 which will give you your total house payments for the year.  Then, divide that by the number of paychecks you receive in a year and you'll know how much to budget per paycheck.

I get paid every two weeks.  So, staying with our example, and making the numbers easy, we'll say my house payment is $1,000 per month.  I will multiply that by 12 and come up with $12,000.  Next I will divide that by the number of paychecks I receive, which is 26.  Many people assume that bi-weekly translates to 24, but there are always two months that get 3 checks.  I love those months.  Anyway, I take the $12,000 and divide by 26 and I get $461.54 (technically, it's a long decimal fraction, but rounds to to that.)  So I put that amount down in the Spending Plan as the amount I need to budget each paycheck.  Simple.  And easy if you have a calculator.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled perimeter:

The North Wall of your perimeter is "God".  On the Basic Spending Plan, I call it "Tithe".  There are still an amazing number of people who remain bewildered at this being the first item budgeted.  I, on the other hand, am bewildered that anyone would consider anything more important than God.

Let me explain my world view.  I'm glad this is a blog rather than Twitter, because I'm going to need more characters.

I am a Christian.  My relationship with God is the most important relationship in my life.  I love my wife, my children, my grandchildren, with every fiber of my being.  I have friends I hold very dear.  I love my country.  But nothing compares to my love for God and what He has done for me.

I won't bore you with the details of the triumphs and tragedies that are my life, but despite my numerous flaws and failures, Jesus loved me and spilled His blood on a cross, so that my sin could be forgiven and I could have a relationship with Him.  It is a remarkable love story.  And it has an extremely happy ending.  After three days, Jesus rose from the grave.  He conquered death itself. He is totally able to forgive my sin and give me a new life here on earth and eternal life later.  I intend to make the most of the opportunity.  The only thing that would make the end happier, is if you had a relationship with him, too.  He is waiting and eager to welcome you into the family.  You can read about it in the Bible.  If you don't have a Bible of your own, you can borrow mine.  Alternatively, you can read the love story of Jesus right HERE.

Brittan and I made a decision long ago, that God would receive the 'first of the best and the best of the first.'  It's like laying the foundation for a building.  If the foundation is good, the building has a chance at survival.  If the foundation is bad, 'Lucy, choo got problems."  So, if God is first, then He is first in our budget.  Frankly, I don't believe the IOU NO MORE plan would work any other way.  I'm certainly not going to test it.  My mamma didn't raise no fool.

Tithe literally meant 10%.  We give the first 10 percent of everything we make to God.  The first check I write each week is made out to our local Church.  If I get a bonus, or windfall, 10% of that goes to God right away.  Bonus money gets split between the local Church and a variety of ministries we support.  (Note:  if you stay tuned till the end of this series, you'll discover a plan to raise your giving to 20%.  Same thing with your saving.  And you'll still have more than enough to live on, quite comfortably.  But it's way too early for that.).

I don't want to get into a big, hairy debate about tithing on gross vs net.  Just start somewhere.  If you're afraid to start with 10%, start with 5% and plan to raise it to 10 when you see how amazing God is at honoring your faith.  If you have questions about tithing or about how to begin a relationship with Jesus, drop us a line.

One more side note:  Currently, the IRS allows Americans to take a tax deduction on our tithe.  How cool is that? Give money to God, and then get to write it off your taxes. You should take full advantage of that.  It's not unspiritual.  I don't recommend giving FOR the deduction, but I don't think we should reject the offer, either.

The day may come when giving to God is no longer a tax deduction.  My behavior will not change at that time.  I give because I love Him.  Everything I have ultimately comes from Him.  Jesus is Lord of all.  Even the tax code.

To summarize:  The very first thing to budget is your tithe.  Determine how much you will give.  Write it down. There, don't you feel better already?