Have a bud­get and stick to it.

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A must-do when it comes to man­ag­ing your money is hav­ing a bud­get and stick­ing to it. That last part is the tough part, but it’s also key to fi­nan­cial bal­ance and progress.

Your bud­get rep­re­sents the plan for how you will spend your money. As Dave Ram­sey says, “A bud­get is peo­ple telling their money where to go in­stead of won­der­ing where it went.” You want to avoid look­ing back over a month and won­der­ing, Where did that money go?

1 Corinthi­ans 4:2 says, “It is re­quired that those who have been given a trust must prove faith­ful.”

2 As stew­ards of the money that God has en­trusted to us, whether it’s a lit­tle or a lot, we need to have a plan in place for our fi­nan­cial spend­ing and sav­ing. That’s where a bud­get comes in.

Life is full of ex­penses, but most of those are reg­u­lar ex­penses that we know are com­ing, whether weekly, monthly, quar­terly, or yearly. Ev­ery reg­u­lar or semi-reg­u­lar ex­pense should be ac­counted for in your bud­get. Of course, bona fide emer­gen­cies some­times come up that cause you to spend be­yond your bud­get. We’ll talk about that more in point four.

When cre­at­ing a bud­get, here are a few tips:

Iden­tify your true in­come and bud­get all of it. Work with the in­come you can con­sis­tently count on. Don’t in­clude wind­falls or yearend bonuses as part of your reg­u­lar in­come. Bud­get be­gin­ning with your ba­sic liv­ing ex­penses, other vi­tal pay­ments, then al­lot any re­main­ing funds to pay off debt and save for emer­gen­cies and other long-term needs. Be re­al­is­tic in cal­cu­lat­ing

ex­penses. It doesn’t help to try to min­i­mize gen­uine ex­penses that can­not ac­tu­ally be trimmed down. If you un­der­bud­get for food or gas, for ex­am­ple, be­cause you’re hop­ing to save or would like to spend less in those cat­e­gories, but your fig­ures aren’t re­al­is­tic, you’ll end up spend­ing more than is noted on your bud­get any­way. That will bring stress, and it works against the pur­pose of a bud­get.

Ad­just as needed. Go over your bud­get monthly to keep it cur­rent and to assess what changes or ad­just­ments need to be made. Keep records in a way that

works for you. The best record-keep­ing sys­tem for you is what­ever works for you, whether that’s a spread­sheet pro­gram, var­i­ous en­velopes, or a handy notebook.

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