Do you control your money? Or does your money control you? For today’s Finance Friday, Jennifer shares some budgeting tips to help you maintain proper control of your money.
Who Controls your Money?
by Jennifer Wake
Who is in control of your finances? When I ask this question to teenagers, I receive a variety of answers. “My parents.” “My boss.” “My job.” Rarely do they reply, “Me.” Unfortunately, the answers from adults are rarely much different.
Learning to control your finances means you control your money and refuse to allow your money (or lack thereof) to control you. Developing a budget allows you to figure out where your money goes and helps you control your future.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
God has great plans for each of us but when we are worried about our finances we often veer off His path or don’t see His plan for us. We don’t step out to embrace where he wants us to go or what he wants us to do, because we have bills to pay and debts surround us.
Military pay scales are public, so the wide range of income levels is no surprise. It doesn’t matter how much or how little money you make, as long the right entity controls it. The mindset shift that finally allowed me to rise up and take control of our finances was the realization that every penny we made was God’s provision for the life he had called my husband and I to live for God’s glory.
A budget is a tool to help you control your finances so you can Rise Up and follow God’s plan for your life.
Budgets can be as simple or complex as you want. There are two major parts to a budget, income and expenses. Most people think they know what their income is each month. Unfortunately, many times they are wrong or they don’t check their LES (Leave and Earnings Statement) to make sure they are getting paid correctly. Once you have checked your income on your LES or pay stub, that amount becomes your income on your budget.
The second part of a budget is the expenses. This is where people get overwhelmed. As a financial counselor, I use a general budget to track my family’s expenses. My first budget had so many categories that I became overwhelmed. I cut back on categories when I realized I had been avoiding recording anything. Yes, even a financial counselor can become overwhelmed.
My first category for expenses is my donations or tithes.
God calls us to give ten percent of our income to help others. Some people give to their chapel, others to ministries. God calls us to give and give cheerfully. This command is the minimum not the maximum we are to give to God.
My second category is savings.
I record how much we put in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) here, but I don’t include matching funds since that did not come from our pay. I also record how much money I am saving for a new car, gifts, or college expenses for my children.
Housing is the third category.
This includes rent or mortgage payments and a section for repairs or replacing furniture. This also includes rental insurance. If you are living in a rental or the barracks you should have rental insurance to cover the cost of replacing your clothing or furniture due to fire, damage or theft. Replacement costs for mattresses or furniture add up quickly so saving for those expenses is helpful. This category can also include utilities such as gas, water, electric.
The next category is food AND restaurants.
This category can get out of hand with coffees. I list every cup of my morning coffee here. Seeing how much I was actually spending really helped me cut back on my visits to local coffee shops. Now, it is a treat to have coffee out. Whenever we PCS, my restaurant line is huge.
My fifth category is transportation.
This includes car payments or saving for a new car, gas, repairs, and licenses. This can include car insurance or you can add a separate category for all insurance.
My utilities category includes cellphones, Netflix or any subscription service, cable or satellite costs. This category can include water, gas and electricity. If I move water, gas and electricity under housing then I include entertainment here for going to the movies, concerts, or other events.
Medical and health is a very small category since this is covered by the military but for dental and vision we have costs so I list them here.
My largest category is “personal.”
This includes the cost of owning a pet: food, vet bills, toys, grooming, boarding. It also includes gifts, craft supplies because I love to quilt, and my favorite line “Blow Money.” This line is for fun. My husband and I split this money so we can spend it on anything we want no questions asked. This is also the first line to get decreased or cut if we overspend in another area. Over the years we have learned to control where our money goes so our “blow money” can grow and we can enjoy ourselves.
The last category is debts.
What do you owe on credit cards? This category hopefully has nothing in it since you pay off your credit cards each month. If you have debt this is where you write down how much you are going to pay each month to eliminate the debt and avoid paying more in interest than you need to.
Once you have decided your expense categories, balance that with your income.
Each dollar should have a place it is going to be used. If you have more income than expenses, add the extra to savings. If you have more expenses than income, take some time to see where you can make changes. You can cut expenses or see if you can make more income, which can be difficult in the military.
Budgeting takes time and can start out as a challenge, but the longer you do it the easier it becomes. Every December, I review the previous year’s budget and see which categories we need to change so we can maintain control of our money.
The goal of every budget is to control your money so your money doesn’t control you.
Don’t miss last month’s Finance Friday post, How to Finance Future Dreams!