This is such a great question for a couple of reasons. First, money is always one of the top three issues that married couples say they fight about. Getting a handle on your money today puts you ahead of the game in the future. In my new book, “7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage”, I talk about bringing “balance” into your life. Handling your finances is a big part of balance. Second, money is the most talked about subject in the New Testament, which should give you some level of comfort because, apparently, God knew we were going to struggle with handling money.
Let me ask you a question: do you really want to create and stick to a budget? If you are not committed, it will frustrate the heck out of you. If budgeting your money is not a priority for you, stop reading now and wait until you are ready! Once you’re committed, it’s time to tackle the following steps.
1. Track Your Spending
If you are still reading, then you are (presumably) committed. The first and probably most tedious part of creating a budget is tracking your spending. Try this idea: for a month, write down everything you spend, including lattes, video games, tithes and taxes. Next, set aside some time when you won’t be interrupted and put all your spending into categories. Then, fill in all your sources of income. Here’s the drumroll: subtract your spending from your income. You will have either a positive or a negative number. If it is negative, you have two choices: increase your income or decrease your expenses. If it is positive, congratulations! Your head is above water.
2. Do The Math
Now you have made a huge step. Honestly, most people never get this far. You should be commended! You have created a road map of your finances. You have a good idea of what you spend in a month. You know what your income is each month. Now you can make decisions. Are there ways to cut expenses? If your budget is not in balance, you can begin to take steps to bring it into balance. If you have extra money each month, what are you going to do with it? Will you save it, spend it or give it?
3. Stay In Control
For most of us, handling money falls in the land of the unknown, and the unknown can cause all kinds of anxiety and fears. You are no longer in that land. You have taken control. And once you get to this point, it will be pretty easy to stick to your budget. The “what ifs” have been taken off the table. Each month you can make adjustments. For instance, you may want to decrease your spending in one category so you can increase it in another. If your income goes up, you can decide what you are going to do with the extra money. The really cool thing is that you are no longer shooting in the dark. You now know where you are and where you want to go.
4. Remember The Owner
There’s one final tip for successful budgeting in a marriage. Think this over, because it may be a totally new concept for you. All your money is really not yours, but God’s. He has trusted you with it. Look at it this way: God is the owner and you are the manager. He gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility. Sure, He may ask for 10 percent or so back, but He lets you keep 90 percent! It’s a really good deal from a really good God, so manage well!
7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage is Dr. Kim’s new book published by Zondervan and available everywhere July 28th.