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5 Simple, Strategic Ways to Budget Your Money as a Couple

  • David Sanford Contributing Writer
  • Updated May 16, 2024
5 Simple, Strategic Ways to Budget Your Money as a Couple

When it comes to finances, Paul is my apostolic hero. He could say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV). Don’t miss the word “learned.”     

Like other Pharisees, Paul (then Saul) probably was a wealthy man who loved money (see Luke 16:14). As an apostle, however, Paul repeatedly lost his possessions to theft, riots, imprisonment, and shipwreck. As a result, “I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked” (see 2 Corinthians 11:23-27).

Therefore, Paul consistently worked hard to provide for his own needs and the needs of others (Acts 18:3, Ephesians 4:28, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15). This is not theory. Paul lived it out for decades—and we can too.

It’s clear that Paul isn’t against wealth: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).

If I could give one gift to every Christian, it would be this conviction: “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

How? Know how much money you’re earning and spending, choose “godliness with contentment,” and then budget accordingly.

Here are 5 simple, strategic ways…

Net Income Over Time

Gross income is what you earn before deductions. Net income is what you take home after taxes, benefit cost-sharing, and miscellaneous fees.     

Do you know what your gross and net currently are? If not, go online and look up your latest pay stub or flip back to last year’s W-2.        

It’s important to know exactly what your monthly net income is. Here’s why: More net income than expenses is the only way to live.        

More net income than expenses, month after month and year after year, means good things for you and your spouse (and family).

It means no cash flow problems.    

It means extra money always on hand for emergencies.     

It means growing prosperity.     

It means healthy savings.

It means growing retirement accounts.

Bottom line: Seek contentment now by consistently spending less than your net income—and your wealth will build over time.

Net Income Steams

In today’s on-demand world, anyone who acts smart and has an extra room, car, time, skills, or stuff can pursue multiple income streams via Airbnb, eBay, Fiverr, Postmates, Uber, and the like.         

Notice the key phrase, “acts smart.” Any dummy can lose money just as fast as they make it. One of my friend Steve’s Uber customers was excited about selling a purse to someone across town for $100. When the ride was all over, the customer’s tab was $99.76. So much for “acts smart.”       

Later my friend Steve started worrying. Was driving for Uber a real job or just a hobby? After calculating how much it cost for gas and wear-and-tear on his 2005 Toyota Camry, Steve discovered he was making net $4.00 per hour. He quickly shut down that hobby and resumed his search for a real job. Scoring the latter wasn’t fun, but did wonders for Steve’s monthly income.

In all you do, seek increased income, but not increased hours or undue stress. If you have to wait months for a promotion or new job, that’s okay. Better to wait than to make a costly mistake.

First Expenses

At the top of page 1 of your budget is INCOME. A couple of inches down is EXPENSES. The first expense is involuntary and includes federal, state, regional and local taxes and fees.        

The second expense may or may not be voluntary and includes employer-employee benefit cost-sharing. Such expenses include health insurance and retirement contributions. If your employer matches the latter by 50 percent or more, make sure you add a voluntary contribution of your own!        

The third expense is completely voluntary and reflects your faith and trust in God and His Word. Such expenses include the priority of giving a tithe to your local church and its missionaries.       

Giving comes in many other forms, as well. Through the years we have made it a priority to sponsor one or more needy children overseas through Compassion International in Colorado Springs, Colorado.      

As the Lord leads, we also love to do extra giving. It’s included paying for a brand-new hot water heater for a young family down the street. It also includes my wife, Renee, and me keeping a $100 bill in our wallet “just in case.” 

Monthly Expenses

Directly under EXPENSES are two categories: Before Net and After Net.

Before Net includes taxes, fees, benefit cost-sharing, and anything else deducted from your take-home pay.

After Net includes two more categories: Monthly and Daily.

Monthly expenses to factor into your budget include your insurance policy costs and your rent or mortgage costs. The latter should include a prorated amount for the upkeep of your home and yard. Whatever you do, don’t take on debt to remodel your kitchen or put on a new 30-year roof (unless it’s already leaking, of course!). Instead, set aside a certain amount each month toward such future expenses.

As well, your budget should list your monthly car payment, student loan payment, and any other loan payments, as well as any charges you’ve incurred on your credit card and bank account.

In addition, your monthly expenses may include oil, propane, electricity, natural gas, water, garbage and recycling, broadband, mobile devices, and other utilities. Prorate any that are billed bimonthly or quarterly.

The more you reduce your Monthly Expenses, the more you’ll have to spend daily the rest of each month. So, wisely reduce as much as you can!

Daily Expenses

I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. Acts 20:33-34

In the verse above, Paul isn’t against silver or gold, and he certainly isn’t against clothing! Then again, silver and gold could take on a lot of beautiful forms (including Roman coinage and jewelry). Ditto for well-tailored and expensive clothing.

We all enjoy seeing such things. When we prosper, we also enjoy owning such things. Paul’s secret was to be content both when he had something and when it was lost due to wear-and-tear, accident, theft, imprisonment, or worse.

When it comes to Daily Expenses, the first key is tracking everything you spend. If you’re married, you want your spouse on the same page (figuratively) and tracking everything she spends on their own page (literally).

If you have adolescent children, both pages should be readily available to them as well. That way, they can learn how to budget early on.

More Scriptures

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it” (Proverbs 13:11 ESV).

“Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working” (1 Thessalonians 4:11 NLT).

“Remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV).

“Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” Acts 20:35 NLT).

“Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money?” (Luke 14:28 NIV).

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5 NIV).


5 topics covered in this article:

  • monthly income
  • income streams
  • first expenses
  • monthly expenses
  • daily expenses


Lord, I want to own this conviction: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6 NIV). What a difference that conviction could make in my life now—and for years to come!

Excerpted and adapted from Life Map Devotional for Men. Copyright © 2020 Barbour Publishing Inc. and used by permission of the publisher and author.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Ippei Naoi

headshot of David Sanford new 2020The late David Sanford’s book and Bible projects were published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His latest book was Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s book, Life Map Devotional for Women.