Encourage your spouse about the importance of setting up a spending and savings plan. Then pray about it together and encourage one another to approach it as a stewardship issue. A budget isn't a punishment plan, it's a rewarding plan that requires input from both spouses, and it should be a liberating thing.

Don't try to create the perfect budget the first time around. Just be sure that you aren't spending more than you earn; then make adjustments as necessary. Your first budget doesn't have to be written in concrete. It can be adjusted. Budgeting is based on a simple premise: spend less than you make and save a little each month. If you adjust your standard of living to fit your income, in the long run a budget will work.

Perhaps you'd like help in creating a sound, written budget. If so, call Crown Financial Ministries at 1-800-722-1976 to ask for the name of a volunteer budget counselor in your area. These volunteer budget coaches have been trained through Crown and offer their services to people who would like free, in-person help with the budgeting process. They can show you how to set reasonable spending and savings goals, prepare a written budget and become debt free and honor God in your finances.

If you have children and you're living without a budget, you may be teaching them the wrong things about stewardship. You might have enough income that allows you to be careless with your money and get away with it. But when your children become adults, they may not. So, even if you have surplus income, your children need to see you exercising sound, biblical financial self-discipline.

This is a joint effort, and husbands and wives will have to encourage one another and approach budgeting like a team -- you're on the same side. Pray together before you start. After that, don't overdo it and create a budget that's too complicated. Start simply and slowly while you are learning the concepts of budgeting.

If you've been spending money with no regard for where it's coming from or where it's going, a budget can look impossible, but it's not. It is possible, practical and liberating with God's help.

Howard Dayton is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries. Dayton and the late Larry 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, on the Web at www.crown.org.

© 2005 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.