Archives For March 2010

       This article is the third in a series on how to get out of debt. If you haven’t already, you should check out the previous articles:

Step 3 – Create a Budget & Stick to It

       I’ve said it a million times (OK, at least five times on here for sure) – you need to have and use a budget to achieve personal finance success! This is true whether we’re talking about paying off debt, saving for the future, planning for retirement, or becoming a generous giver. The budget is an essential tool for personal finance.

       But it’s especially true if you want to pay off your debt as quickly as possible! Knowing how much you spend will help you see where you can cut back and save the most money. Aiming for a specific amount in your budget will enable you make sure you have enough money left over every month to put extra payments toward your debt. If you don’t take the time to create a budget and stick to it, you’re putting a major hurdle in your path toward paying off your debt.

It Doesn’t Need to Be Complicated

       Now I want you to understand that budgeting is not complicated. It simply means writing down your income and expenses. It doesn’t matter how you do it – as long as it works for you. In fact, there are many ways to create a budget and track your spending. My favorite way right now is to use Mint. It’s easy, intuitive, and nearly automatic. You can have alerts sent to your email or phone when you approach certain thresholds in your budget (even for individual categories).

How to Get Started

       If you want to get started creating a budget but aren’t sure how (and you’re not going to use Mint or other software), then you’ll need to start tracking your expenses for three months. It’s not fun or exciting, but it will help you see exactly where your money is going every month. From there, you can build your budget and begin to set goals for how much you spend in each category every month.

Remember – It’s Only Temporary

       Finally, for those of you who hate the idea of a budget, I want you to remember that this isn’t forever. There will come a time when you won’t need to track every penny you spend. You will eventually gain control of your spending, have an emergency fund, and be paying all your bills on time. But to live without a budget, you must first live within one. Even after you’ve gained control of your situation, I think you’ll find that you’ll continue to keep updating your budget because it’s such a useful tool. If the idea of creating a budget and sticking to it drains all the joy out of your life, remember that it is only a temporary situation.

Get Free Updates!

       If you want to keep getting tips on how you can get out of debt and manage your personal finances well, make sure you sign up for free updates to Provident Planning! I’ll be continuing this series throughout the year while I also explore other aspects of personal finance.

       Let me know how you’re going to create a budget & stick to it in the comments below!

       8 Remove far from me falsehood and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me; 9 lest I be full, deny you, and say, ‘Who is Yahweh?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:8-9 (WEB)

       These two verses from Proverbs give us wonderful insight into our need for contentment and Jesus’ purpose behind praying for “our daily bread”. First, we see that contentment is important because it helps us to remember God in all things. When we become rich, we can easily be tempted to ask why we even need God’s help any more. We have our money – why do we need God?

       But it’s also equally interesting that we should be praying to have the food that is needful – just enough. If we are poor, we’ll be tempted to steal and that would dishonor God’s name. It would be a sin that would grieve Him. So we see that it’s not outside of God’s will for us to pray for our needs to be met.

       Jesus makes this point in His example for prayer:

       7 In praying, don’t use vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. 8 Therefore don’t be like them, for your Father knows what things you need, before you ask him. 9 Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. 10 Let your Kingdom come. Let your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. 13 Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen.’

Matthew 6:7-13 (WEB)

       Jesus teaches us that it’s important to remember God knows our needs before we even ask Him. But it is still appropriate for us to pray for our daily bread – the things we need to get through each day. Again, showing that we are seeking contentment and not personal, worldly riches. We are praying for just enough – not for things that far exceed our needs. But we’re also praying that our needs will be met so we won’t be tempted to steal and thus sin.

       This idea of daily bread also ties into the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness where God provided them with manna. The Israelites could only collect enough manna to feed themselves for one day. Anything extra would rot. They were in complete dependence upon God’s provision. That’s what we’re praying for when we ask God for our daily bread. We’re saying, “God, I need your provision. I know I can’t do this on my own, but I know you can meet my needs.”

       So the next time you’re praying, remember to praise God and thank Him for the blessings He’s provided. But don’t hesitate to ask Him to continue to meet your needs. Ask Him for your daily bread – for just enough. Don’t be lead away by the deceitfulness of riches and begin praying for wealth. Ask God to give you what you need so you can serve Him faithfully, according to His will. God will answer such a prayer given with the right motives.