Personal Finance Budgeting
A sensible personal finance budgeting process can build a solid framework for fiscal stability and financial peace of mind. Whatever goals a family or individual may have in mind, a solid plan of attack will always include a carefully planned and realistic budget. Setting out clear guidelines for how income will be spent each month provides a map for current and future spending. The basic expenses such as housing, utilities, food and clothing, or transportation are generally the first things that must be included in a family financial plan. Extras such as recreational activities and luxury items will always need to take a back seat to such fundamental necessities. Some goals, however worthy, may need to be deferred to a later time rather than sacrificing certain material requirements. These issues of personal finance budgeting need to be prioritized in light of the amount of income that is available each month. Making wise investments that will grow wealth is also part of a solid monetary plan. When investments are part of the budget, the age of the individual who is drafting the spending plan can make a difference in priorities as well. Generally speaking, the older the investor, the safer the investment should be. The thinking is that a younger person has more time to make up for losses and can afford to take greater risks. Of course, any investment that is too risky is not a good idea at any age.
When handling personal finance budgeting, there are several questions that consumers should ask themselves. The relative health of an individual's monthly budget can often be determined by the answers to these questions. Can the family's rent, mortgage and other necessary household expenses be met each month without major struggle? In the event of an emergency, is there any money available to address the problem? Has the budgeter created a written list of financial goals for both the near and the distant future? Does the budget contain an allocation for savings? Are financial records as well as important documents well organized and readily available? Is the budgeter aware of such issues as their tax bracket or their net worth? Is there sufficient money in a savings account that could meet family expenses for a minimum of three months? In the event of a raise in salary, does the budgeter increase the amount of money that goes into savings as well? Does the budgeter also have an investment plan that is geared toward retirement savings? Are big ticket purchases made with sufficient comparison shopping? How often are big ticket purchases made on impulse? The answers to questions such as these can have a large impact on personal finance budgeting.
A large part of personal finance budgeting can involve basic day to day expenses such as food. In the area of the family food bill, seeking bargains and shopping at more than one grocery store can yield savings in this area. Families who plan a weekly menu and shop for all of these planned meals at one time rather than making frequent dashes to the grocery store generally spend less money on food. Watch the weights and sizes on packaged food. Often manufacturers will disguise a smaller quantity with creative packaging. Local farmer's markets can offer fresh food that is in season at lower prices. When searching the grocery store shelves for bargains, keep in mind that the items that are the least economical are generally presented at the chest level of the customer. More reasonably priced items will be stocked at higher or lower levels. Many grocery stores utilize a lay out that will take a customer past pricey items on their way to basics like bread and milk. Shopping early in the day when the store is less crowded can result in a faster shopping trip and less money spent. It is never a good idea to shop for food when hungry. Most shoppers will buy much more than they intended to on an empty stomach. Achieving savings in this necessary area of life can help meet the goals of personal finance budgeting.
Another expense that can impact personal finance budgeting is clothing. This is an area that can vary from consumer to consumer. Some individuals pride themselves on being stylish and will spend accordingly. Others see clothing as a basic necessity of life and have no problem controlling expenditures in this area. Some basic tips for stretching this area of the budget could include careful planning and building a wardrobe around some reliable essential pieces. Selling clothing that is no longer needed at consignment shops can also be a means of stretching a clothing budget. Whatever priority clothing has in the life of a consumer, fashion, if kept within reason, can provide a great means of self expression. The Bible talks about the importance of expressing thanks to God. "I will sing unto the Lord, because he hath dealt bountifully with me." (Psalm 13:6)
For many individuals, personal finance budgeting also includes setting aside funds for educational purposes. Students who have already graduated face the challenge of paying back loan debt. The cost of educational funding can often be cut through loan consolidation. The good news is that interest rates on educational loans are generally lower than those associated with standard financing. However, creditors are frequently able to garnish wages to receive payment on educational loans. For most consumers, the cost of educational financing is generally more than offset by the employment possibilities that education can open up.
Personal Finance HelpMany sources of personal finance help are available for individuals who want to make the best use of their hard-earned money. Books and seminars abound about how to obtain, increase, multiply and even distribute wealth. DVDs and infomercials advertise programs which claim to be able to help a person demolish debt or pick productive stocks or gather fabulous wealth through investing in real estate. People must be buying these programs, or else the producers would not be able to continue to afford to purchase advertising time! However, these are not the best long term solution to the management of personal finances. It is doubtful that many people find success through these avenues. Many more bought these items only to find out that there is no quick solution that will instantly solve financial problems. Following time-tested Biblical principles offers the best personal finance help.
Other people are still in the quest for seeking personal finance help. Christian teachers, whether members of a pastoral staff or simply experienced laymen, can offer financial principles to interested individuals who are looking for help from a Biblical perspective. Sometimes interested people band together in a group to examine what the Bible has to say on these matters and to support and encourage each other. Churches also offer Sunday School classes or special seminars to deal with the issue of money management.
Each individual must examine even 'Christian' sources of information carefully. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people sometimes use the mantle of Christianity to conceal their own desires to profit from others' problems. Therefore, whether listening to a sermon, reading a book or consulting Internet sources for Christian articles on personal finance help, it is wise to always compare what is being said with the Bible itself, in order to determine if truth is being promoted. Many helpful Christian websites deal with wealth management and stewardship living. These can provide a great deal of guidance for the discerning individual. Just remember to be like the Bereans in the New Testament book of Acts, who took the time to carefully compare what the apostle Paul was preaching with what Scriptures taught. Truly godly teachers will be delighted, as Paul was, with hearers who use Scripture as a standard to judge their statements. Whether dealing with personal finance or other matters, false teachers are the only ones who would object to being measured by a Biblical yardstick. However, remember that gentleness and respect will go a long way towards reaching those with whom one has perceived a conflict.
Some principles which one might look for in order to judge the effectiveness of any book, article, seminar or sermon regarding personal finance help are the following. God, not some person or program, should be the recognized source of blessing and wisdom, and the One to turn to for every need. False teachers tend to promote themselves as a necessary guide. They also tend to make money the central object of the program, focusing upon amassing wealth instead of seeking to maintain a balance between spiritual and material things. Godly teachers will recognize the need for personal responsibility and for determining specific actions steps which can help resolve financial problems. They point people to biblical solutions, not gather personal admirers.
Giving can be an important aspect of measuring one's financial health. There should be some element of giving to God in thankful recognition of the fact that He is the source of every good gift. There should also be the willingness to share with others from the overflow of our own blessings. False teachers want their followers to give as well, but it is generally they themselves who seek to become the beneficiaries!
Scripture has much to say about the topic of money, and those seeking personal finance help would do well to examine this source of godly wisdom about financial matters. There are directions for giving and receiving, proper use of material possessions, and for godly business practices. Information about buying and selling, about borrowing and lending to others, and a whole host of other financial topics can be found within the pages of the Bible. It takes time to digest all this material and to learn how to apply it to daily life, but this is well worth the effort. We need to imitate the example of the Bereans, who "...received the word readily with all eagerness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11)
An element of discernment is involved in determining whether certain verses regarding personal finance help apply to our own situation, or whether these were meant only for a specific situation or time. We tend to want to relegate difficult principles to another time and place, while eagerly grasping upon verses which promise blessing and provision. Wisdom is needed in order to differentiate between the two, yet believers have the Holy Spirit and God's promise to give wisdom to those who ask for it as reassurance that earnest seekers will be able to find answers. The aim of this is to be able to discern which thing is a principle -- a matter which is applicable for all believers at all times -- from things which are historically true yet meant for a particular group or time. A sense of the scope of Scriptural teaching will gradually be developed with continued study. For example, believers now look to Christ's death on the cross, not animal sacrifices, to cover the offense of their sins before God. Before Christ's death and resurrection, Old Testament saints looked forward to the Savior who would come and in faith offered these sacrifices as a sign that they were looking forward to the Messiah who would one day come. The instructions for particular sacrifices would not be principles believers today would follow, although the principle of salvation through faith in God's provision of a Savior remains a constant. Verses about financial matters likewise need to be carefully studied in order to obtain principles which offer personal finance help for today.