Torch, Winter 1979

A brief look at your checkbook would tell me volumes about your spiritual priorities. Does that surprise you? It shouldn't, because what we spend money for and in what proportions tells a great deal about what we consider important. A healthy look at how we are spending our money may produce some surprises for many of us, but it is necessary. How often have we gotten to the place where our money is gone, but the bills aren't? Debt pressure usually exists not because we don't have enough money to go around, but because we waste so much of it. It would be fair to say that the average American family wastes more than 10% of its take– home income. The pressure this can exert on the family, even the Christian family, is nothing short of astounding. Studies into the causes of marriage break-ups reveal that instability in personal and family finances is the single highest contributor to divorce in America today. To be more specific, finances (not unfaithfulness) are directly or indirectly the catalyst of destruction in 75% of all divorces, according to recent research. Three out of every four marriage breakdowns can be directly traced to money problems! Marriage counselors, pastors and bankers testify to the inability of many people today to deal with financial crises and day-to-day stewardship as it relates to running the home. If we are to be faithful stewards, it is important that each one of us does some evaluating. On what are we spending our God-given means? How can we handle our finances to make best use of our income? An essential first step is establishing a realistic budget. Unfortunately for many families, budgeting has too often been presented as a negative, slave-like task. That couldn't be further from the truth. Although successful money management is work and requires discipline, wise budgeting can be a welcome servant and can be used to provide times for family discussion and opportunities for imparting scriptural principles to our children. A budget is nothing more than a series of rules or boundaries within which we have freedom to spend and save. It is saying, "Iwill spend so much for food and no more; Iwill live within these boundaries which will give me freedom to do something else that has been carefully planned." Going through this stage of proper planning can not only alleviate debt pressure, but also raise family expectations beyond the status quo to a level surpassing all past experience. The first step is to clearly define our goals. This should be discussed with the entire family.What is important to each member? What position do you want to have reached a year from now? Five years from now? The goals for the next year may include a car, home improvements or a stereo. Five years from now you may wish to have a well established college fund for your children or a new house. I can promise you that if you don't properly plan now you will be in the same predicament, or worse, next year. The next step is to get a red three– ring loose leaf notebook (6 '' by9'' is a good size) and a package of two column ledger paper. In the back of the notebook place two manila envelopes that have had holes punched in them to fit neatly inside the notebook. This should fill your needs for several years of budgeting. There are other forms available for recording your budget, but I feel that this system can most easily be adapted to fit your individual needs and creativity. Many pre-printed forms are involved and confusing. The next step is to establish how much spending money will be available for distribution over the planning period. This should include your salary, interest from savings, investment income and any other Bob Rohm after-tax income. The fourth step is to estimate as closely as possible all expenditures. Relying on your memory is not sufficient here, so you will need to gather together old receipts and check stubs to check past expenditures. Such a list would usually contain things like food, household expenditures, clothes, medical and health related expenses, furniture , recreation, insurance, tithe and offerings, and travel expenses, including upkeep on the car. The fifth step should be recording the proper information in the red budget book. The first section should contain a list of all annual expenses. tu ies into e causes of marriage break– ups reveal that instability in personal and family finances is the single highest contributor to divorce in America today. s