Christians and Money – Budgeting

Last week, I wrote a long rambling post specifically about giving and what the IRS might flag when you do your taxes, but also generally things related to money. One of the tangents I veered towards relates to what we would do with our money, specifically as it relates to getting new job, or some sort of other large bump in salary. My somewhat rhetorical point being if you salary goes up 10%, your expenses shouldn’t. Your mortgage/rent, groceries, other bills, are what they are, so you should have surplus, what should you do?

I think before diving into that, we need to point out that, for the most part, we are terrible with money. As I point out, American’s only give about 3% of their income, and this article shows, we save less than 5%, and finally, this article says the average federal tax rate is 13.5%, but a little nuance (see chart below) shows that no one pays double digit taxes rates until the make over $200K, so for the purpose of this post, I’ll call it 7%.

Put all those together, and are only talking about 15% of income. Throw in 33% for housing, 10% for food, another 10% for transportation, and lets call it 7% for misc., you get 75%. Or you can also take a look at this article, which goes over the average American household budget. I also took a look at Mint, there is a comparison tool to see how my spending stacks up against other in my metro area. Four big categories stuck out to me:
Shopping  – $5,873
Personal care – $1,148
Misc  – $2,506
Fees and Charges – $1,175
To note, shopping is a separate category from groceries. The income, from which the use data came, was around $67K, so this shopping category is close to 10% of pre-tax income. I’m not entirely sure what people call personal care, but $100 a month seems high. The Misc category is a little hard to judge. That might be unexpected expenses, not too sure as it looks like people are already spending $500 a month on shopping. The Monday Morning Wife and I use the Misc as a giant catch all for shopping, eating out, unexpected expenses, haircuts, etc. So, it was a little harder to compare how we stack up exactly. Finally, it appears people are spending $100 on fees and charges. I interpret that as people are spending $100 a month to not pay attention. I understand things happen, but I can’t imagine how you get hit with so many fees if you are actually keeping on top of paying bills and monitoring you accounts.

Which I guess brings me to the point I want to make in this post. Not necessarily the original point I was going for, but here we are. We are just not effective stewards of our money. Mainly, because we are too lazy to pay attention. I talked with a guy over a year ago. I mentioned with the new jobs, we were thinking of possibly trying to pay the house off earlier. As we were talking, we realized our incomes and expenses were roughly the same, but he wasn’t in a position to have extra money. I asked him about budgeting and tracking, and he wasn’t doing it. This is a smart, high educated guy, who is a committed husband and loving father, but was just failing to pay attention to his finances.

I found this to be pretty consistent last summer when our pastor did a series on money, our small group discussed what people were spending on what and how people track and budget. Out of the five of us, only one other family was seriously tracking. Some people were saving, but not giving, some were giving but not saving, some were doing both, but couldn’t tell you how much they spent going out to eat, or where their money went, so they were falling further and further in debt. Many of the guys have great salaries, or large bonus, and one had recently started a new job with a big pay raise. So, they are paying their bills, but spending the rest, neither increasing their giving or saving. This is a huge problem for most Americans called Lifestyle Inflation were you end up matching you spending to your income, so that is you receive more and more money, all you do is spend more and more.

So, it ends up with people being highly compensated, but live paycheck to paycheck and do not feel like they are actually blessed by God, despite their obvious abundance. I was talking to a coworker the other day. He and his wife combine for an income that likely puts him in the top 10% of all earners, and despite their being in their 20’s, with two incomes and no kids, he was wondering how it is possible to ever retire. I asked him, well, how much are you saving, he wasn’t sure. We just cannot use what God has given us, unless we actually know what we are going with it. If you aren’t tacking, you really need to start and get your spending under control. If you don’t know where your money is going, it is a safe bet that not enough of it is going back to God.

I had intended for this post to go a different direction, but I realized as I researched and thought back to my conversations with people that you can’t really talk about handling abundance until you know what that even means in your own spending and how most people don’t even respond to God’s blessing enough to know what they are even knowing where it is going. So, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, next week I’ll try to get back to abundance, and two different solutions I’ve seen heard of as a response.

One thought on “Christians and Money – Budgeting

  1. Pingback: Christians and Money – Plenty | Monday Morning Theologian

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