Charting a Financial Road Map
- Friday, December 19, 2003
Establish self-discipline and put all assets and all spending under God's control. Then, once spending has been brought under control, determine how much you'll need to spend each month in each category of the budget — road map — and stick to the budget.
Settle the question of how much is enough, or you'll never be satisfied with your lifestyle.
The Bible doesn't prohibit borrowing, but it establishes specific limits on borrowing. If we follow God's biblical principles, we must not take on debt that we have no reasonable expectation of repaying.
Spouses need to talk with (to) one another and singles need to talk to a trusted adviser about their debt tolerance levels. Know what the Bible says about debt, and if your current debt load exceeds your comfort level, pray about finding ways to reduce it.
One important short-term goal is deciding how much to save — a dollar amount or an income percentage. The amount of money saved isn't as important as your diligence in saving. Every dollar saved today is a dollar available for tomorrow's needs.
Set specific saving guidelines for your family. With discipline, savings can give freedom and peace of mind when inevitable emergencies come up. And, savings allow you to purchase with cash and shop for best buys.
Try to maintain three to six months' income in an emergency savings account. If you have seasonal or fluctuating incomes, the amount should be six months. Everyone living above the poverty level can save something, and even small amounts add up. Try to allocate 5 percent of your income — after paying taxes and tithes — to savings.
Perhaps the most important short-term goal for Christians is how much to give to God's work. If giving habits aren't established as a result of spiritual conviction, giving often declines when more money becomes available to the family.
Setting giving goals will help control impulsive or emotional overreaction. Unless giving to the Lord is planned, money may not be available once all other bills are paid.
Planning is necessary and scriptural. But don't ever lose the spontaneity that comes with serving God. If God reveals a need, even though you may already have given your planned amount, give as the Lord has prompted. "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure — pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38).
Call it whatever you want, a financial plan, a budget or a financial road map. Just be sure you know where you are, where God wants you to go, and then be willing to make your plans for getting there.
Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. His column replaces the one written for Baptist Press each month by the late Larry Burkett, who died July 4. Dayton and Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries led by Dayton merged with Christian Financial Concepts led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries.
© 2001 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
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