A Balanced Budget from the Bible
Does your budget work? Do you even have one? The Bible reveals budgeting principles that can help you overcome money troubles once and for all.
By Dexter H. Faulkner
The Good News, February 1986
Budgeting! Many people, it seems, get uncomfortable when anyone mentions this touchy subject.
Some are convinced they make too little money to budget. Others think they have no head for figures and can’t make a budget work.
So, for most people, money matters continue year by year to be a frightful experience!
But money problems are not necessary — even for you.
I learned these principles when I first read this magazine many years ago, and my family has lived by them ever since. I learned that in the pages of the Bible is a plan for the simplest and most effective budget in the world, one that can work even for people who have failed for years in their attempts to budget their money.
What’s more, it might surprise you to know that you may already be applying this plan, in principle, to part of your income.
Let’s look at the principles of budget revealed in the Bible, and learn how to overcome money troubles once and for all. First, here are four keys of financing. They are essential before any budget can be put into operation:
Four important keys
• Make budgeting a family project. Get everyone involved. Of course, the husband as head of the family should take the lead in planning and sticking to a budget. But the counsel and cooperation of every family member is necessary.
If you are a husband, remember that you and your wife are “heirs together of the grace of life” (I Peter 3:7). By all means consult your wife on how the family income is spent. Perhaps she has more time or skill than you to devote to record-keeping, or to the mechanical process of writing the checks to pay the bills. At the least, your wife should be aware of what is happening, so she can offer wise counsel and be able to handle the job if anything should happen to you.
Children, too, need to develop the right attitude toward finances. They can learn about tithing, budgeting, saving and getting the best value for their money. This includes making wise purchases and not spending money frivolously.
• Always buy quality. The cheapest is not always the best. Often, those who always choose the cheapest develop personalities that reflect this point of character. We tend to act differently when using something expensive. We would have considerably more respect for a fine limousine, for example, than we would our old family jalopy. Over a period of time, the person who always buys the cheapest just because it is the cheapest may develop a careless, sloppy attitude and lose his or her ability to enjoy quality items.
So, when making purchases, realize that many “bargains” are not always what they seem to be. Shop wisely. Evaluate an item by more than price alone. In the way it will affect you psychologically, an item of slightly higher price may be a far better investment. Anyone who has visited Ambassador College has seen this point demonstrated in the quality surroundings of the campuses.
• Save. A big source of misery in family money matters is the habit of living without a savings. Some are convinced that saving is out of the question for them. But most people would not be in the trouble they are in had they only learned to practice this law of finances earlier.
Proverbs 6:6-8 tells us to learn from the ant, who “provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest.” In other words, she has a savings of food to tide her over the rough spots and the winter.
Even if you are in financial difficulties, you need to begin a savings. It need not be large at first, just enough to develop the habit in you. Later, when you have gotten out of trouble, you will have established the pattern in your life. Besides, it will surprise you to see just how quickly a few pennies accumulate over the weeks.
Many people live so close to the edge that just one extra bill pushes them over the edge into financial oblivion. How good it would be to have enough savings to pay that one bill you did not anticipate. It is easy to have it if you will just start putting a small amount away from each of your future paychecks.
• Avoid credit buying. Just as some think it impossible to save, some are convinced they cannot get along without charge accounts. The fact is that you must get along without them, or you will never enjoy financial happiness.
Despite how much you are presently tied to revolving interest payments, you need to start getting away from them. It may take some time to break their stranglehold, but it will be worth it to your peace of mind. Solomon wrote, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender”. (Proverbs 22:7).
Start today to have the strength of character to wait until you can save the cash. It costs much more to pay the interest on borrowed money than it would to save the money ahead of time. Avoid spending sprees.
Almost every charge account is set up on a minimum monthly charge of 1½ percent — that’s 18 percent a year. And many charge more. Yet when you have cash, you not only save the carrying charges, but can often buy at a discount.
Of course, in certain cases today credit buying has become almost a necessity. The principle to follow, however, is that credit purchases should be made for necessities only — such as a car or home. Never should you buy luxuries on credit.
Television sets, sporting goods and hobby supplies should be paid for in cash. It is usually these items that give people trouble in credit buying. It just seems so easy to buy the extras now and delay the payment until later. Don’t fall into this trap.
Credit cards should not be used on major purchases where you are forced to carry the payment beyond the initial billing period. In other words, don’t charge anything that you can’t pay for completely when the bill first comes. Interest rates are so high on credit-card purchases that you will end up paying much more for the items than if you had paid cash. I am happy to say that in the last 20 years I have not had to pay any interest on my credit cards.
The perfect budget
Now let’s look at the actual mechanics of the perfect budget.
If you will turn to the 14th chapter of Deuteronomy, you will find the principle given. It is, surprisingly, the principle of second tithe. All God’s people should know the tremendous blessing that second tithe is. It somehow seems altogether different from the rest of our income.
Why? The reason is given in Deuteronomy 12:17: “You may not eat within your gates the tithe of your grain.” Each year, when we spend our second tithe to keep God’s annual festivals, this money has a special thrill about it.
Many of us are overwhelmed when we first begin to save second tithe. For the first time in our lives, we have money that we are commanded to spend on enjoyable things for ourselves and our families. Never before have we been able to spend money this way, because there were always greater needs elsewhere — charge accounts, utilities, food, clothing. But this money, the second tithe, cannot be spent for these things and is therefore especially enjoyable. Surprisingly enough, this same blessing can apply to all your money, and not just to tithes alone.
Stop and consider: The way you manage your tithe is the way you ought to also manage all the rest of your income!
The average person pays his bills separately with whatever money is available at the time. But second tithe is not handled this way. Instead of taking what you need to attend the Feast from your income in one lump sum just before the Feast, you save it as a small part of each paycheck. In this way God ensures that you will have what you need when the need arises.
To have financial success, it is necessary to do this with your whole income, not just your tithes.
In brief, you need to pay every bill — even unexpected ones — with every check. Rather than paying all of one bill from one particular check, you will need to begin, just as you do with your tithes, taking a fixed percentage ahead of time from each check for all future bills.
In other words, if you pay the electricity once a month, yet are paid every two weeks, you need to take half of the electricity bill out of each check, beginning one month ahead of time. Don’t pay the electricity bill from one check, the rent from the next and the gas and water from the next. This way only brings headaches.
How to set it up
Make a comprehensive list of all debts and expenses you ordinarily have over a period of time. Include overdue, current and future obligations — everything it will take to run your family for some time to come.
If the longest period you go between bills is a year, such as insurance or taxes, then your list will have to cover a year. If, however, the longest time between any bills is three months, then your list need only cover three months.
Whatever the time, put down all expenses, regular or irregular, that you know you will have during this period. This must even include money spent on recreation, odds and ends and the continuing expenses of rent, food and utilities.
Next, adjust every bill to the length of time between your paychecks. If, for example, you are paid twice a month, then monthly bills will have to be divided in half and weekly bills doubled. A yearly bill should be divided into 24 parts.
Now, make a new list of these adjusted parts (i.e., one-half monthly car payment, two weekly food bills, one-24th property tax). This list is central to the budget. If you have included every expense, it will tell you exactly how to spend each check; every one will be spent the same way. In other words, each time you get a check, this list will tell you exactly, how much to put away for each future expense, so that you will have precisely what you will need to pay the bills as they arrive.
By saving a standard amount for each bill from each check, as with your tithes, the worry of budgeting disappears. Your list of standard amounts automatically tells you how to do the job. Once properly set up, this budget needs only occasional thought, as contrasted with the constant headache of fitting each individual bill into the money on hand. What’s more, with this budget you are not forgetting any items or wasting any money.
The greatest blessing is the freedom this budget gives you when you spend the money. If you have carefully and faithfully set aside the money from each check to pay each bill, you will be able to spend it with the reassuring knowledge that it was intended for that purpose — even recreation and luxuries.
So often, families actually make enough money to be able to enjoy certain extras. But without such a budget, few enjoy what they have. They may spend the money on these specialties, but always feel guilty doing so. Had they wisely divided their income into standard segments and included an amount from each check for special extras, they would be able to have these luxuries with a clear conscience.
So learn the lesson. Divide your income into definite sections so that every check is spent automatically on part of every bill. The blessings are beyond belief.
What to include
Your list of expenses must be complete. This is especially true if your income is low or you are deeply in debt. There are a few items that must be included in all budgets:
• Clothing. This is a sore spot for some families. They may manage to get what they need, but only at great pains to the budget. Clothing is a long-term need, and some forget that they will need money to buy clothes. When the time comes, it becomes a painful matter of squeezing out money here and there. Why not just save a little from each check? You do not need to spend it immediately, but when you need it, it will be there.
• Entertainment. Many families feel they cannot afford entertainment. To them it is an unnecessary expense. But entertainment is a necessity for a balanced family. Many of us would be overwhelmed with the happiness that can come simply by setting a small amount away each check for entertainment.
• Offerings. Holy Day offerings are quite a problem for many brethren. When they come to these occasions, they seem to experience anything but joy. They either feel they cannot afford to give offerings, or they feel guilty about not giving enough. But if you work out in your budget an amount you know is right (“as you are able” — Deuteronomy 16:16-17), you will have a far better feeling about giving. You will know that you have done what you are able to do, and may even be pleased to find that you can give more than you ordinarily do. Then, too, you can always draw on your savings and still give that little extra you would like to.
Why not start now to budget properly with the Spring Holy Days especially in mind? They will be here before you know it! Why not be ready to give as large an offering each time as you are able, having planned and saved as a regular part of your budget?
• Pocket money. It seems minor, but incidental items can do more damage to a budget than you might expect. You probably would be surprised if you knew how much money you spend on small, everyday items — toothpaste, haircuts, newspapers, to mention a few.
This division of the budget may not need to be large, but if you do not include it, this one small point can wreck all your other efforts.
One last point needs to be mentioned. It is a little advice on how to get started.
Perhaps you feel you are already so far behind in your finances that you cannot even begin on such a budget. But it is for just such a person that this article has been written. The very reason to start on this budget is to overcome the problem you now think is stopping you!
Such a budget cannot work immediately for anyone near the financial cliff. Frankly, it may take several months to get fully on the scheme. The more months that pass, however, the closer you will come to being where you want to be. And the character developed in this process cannot be valued monetarily.
So the thing for you to do is begin now. Even if you have to run all your accounts in the red for months, you need to set up the plan immediately. If you cannot do what you write on your list, you will at least be able to develop the habit of learning what you should be doing.
Frankly, though, if you will set up your ideal budget right away despite your troubles, realistically including all current bills, repayments of loans and mortgages, future expenses and all the other needs, you will be surprised just how often you actually can begin to fulfill the amounts you have planned to put aside from each check. Even though you can only set aside half of one bill the first month, you will be half a month’s bill ahead for the next month. And eventually you will find yourself enjoying the blessings of financial stability.
Budgeting need not be a distasteful scourge, an agonizing plague upon your life. All it takes is the determination and the faith in the Word of God to get free from money worries for the rest of your life.
Budgeting is a blessing!