Budgeting 101

{word heavy post tonight, sorry!}

Sooooo…what IS a budget? Some people have been budgeting since they got their first tooth fairy quarters. And some people have this vague notion of what the word means, but no real foundation.

A budget is a “GPS” for your money. It tells you what, where, and how you can use your money, should use your money, what to do if you want to “detour” for a bit and do something else with your money…It takes stock of your income, your outflow, and what’s left at the end of the month.

Getting started is easy! Print out your monthly statements for any and all debit/credit cards, and gather up receipts, your checkbook, and a calculator. Write down any cash transactions you remember from the past month. Then, make a spreadsheet.

*On one side, list all Income you get each month.

*On the other, list all of your “non-negotiable” expenses, or your Fixed Expenses. Write down everything! Do you have to pay for laundry? Parking at your job?

*Below that, list your Discretionary Spending. This includes everything else, such as: Netflix, lattes, gym memberships, haircuts, entertainment, eating out, gifts, etc.

Go through your statements, receipts, and check payments, and make sure you put ALL the numbers into this spreadsheet, adding as you go . Don’t forget to include any tithing and giving. Find your car insurance bills, and divide that by 12 to get how much you pay each month (if you don’t pay it monthly). Same with health insurance or renter’s insurance (which you have if you are renting your living space, right?!). Now you should have a pretty good idea of what you have spent for the past month. Then, look at your “ending balance” in your bank account statement. How’s that lookin?

There are a ton of good tools online to help you with this. I especially love LearnVest’s online Money Center and Financial Bootcamps (these are amazing and free!). You can also try Mint. Scour Crown Financial Ministries website (and books!) for some great, Christ-centered strategies. I’m sure there are iPhone apps, too, if you’re cool like that.

Are you shocked at all? I always seem to spend too much at the grocery store and thrift store.  But don’t stress yet!

So when you have the numbers, this is where we going gets tough. Take a critical eye to them. Do you notice that you spend a lot of money by not returning your Redbox movies on time (those extra day charges should be on your credit card statement)? Or by paying for magazine subscriptions you never read? Turns out I had an online store that was charging me $10 a month just to keep it online, and I hardly EVER logged in or tried to sell anything! Oops.


If you don’t have a budget, follow the suggestions above and MAKE ONE. Get a cup of coffee, clear off the kitchen table, and just get to work on it. I promise, once you do it the first time, it gets easier.

Then, try this: I like to keep one copy of the budget exactly as it was when the numbers went in. Then start another one and begin fiddling with the numbers. Slash all of those “Oops” categories immediately. Cancel memberships. Stop listing things on eBay if they aren’t selling and are just racking up fees for you. That’s the initial clean-up. 

Now….sleep on those numbers. Pray over them!!!!!!!!!! Ask for wisdom about which areas are suffering most from either too much attention or too much neglect. That’s enough of my words and numbers for tonight 🙂



  1. It's funny, my hubby and I have some sort of budget (he handles most of the finances), but we don't stick to the unspecific numbers we have. And then I get worried/feel guilty about what I spend…maybe it's time we sat down and talked about it… : ) Great tips!



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