The Joy of Budgeting – Really!

There’s an old saying, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

Unfortunately, there is ample evidence all around us that many folks are struggling with money these days. Maybe this is an opportunity to do a bit of planning!

Of course, there are those who are experiencing a serious crisis due to job loss, major illness, or various other factors. In such cases, planning is still necessary, but let’s not discuss crises today. We’ll get to that later.

For those of us not in crisis mode, let’s talk about the upside of doing a better job planning our financial lives. Why should we plan? It’s simple: faithfulness. By submitting our finances to the Lord, we allow Him to lead an important aspect of our lives – a profound spiritual benefit.

There are also practical benefits. In my family’s case, getting our financial house in order a few years ago allowed me to accept a position with The Coming Home Network International (CHN) last year. It’s a terrific organization, and I’m privileged to be part of the team.

Yet many faithful Christians do not appear to have a distinctly different approach to handling money from the rest of society. So cultural pressures towards instant gratification (getting rich quickly), excess (workaholism), gluttony (excess consumption), and irresponsibility (taking on commitments we may not fulfill) can slowly begin to infect our thinking.

Fortunately, the Church has the antidote to such pitfalls, and gives us the tools to transcend these influences. So here’s the challenge: our financial priorities should reflect our faith. Just like all areas of life, we are called to holiness with our money. How we earn it, how we spend it, and how we think about it.

Where to begin? After recognizing our stewardship role, it’s good to figure out where we stand, and make a plan (yes, a budget) as a roadmap to take us where we are called to go. Particularly in marriage, this helps spouses to discuss priorities and financial values outside any “heat of the moment” pressures. By subjecting spending priorities to scrutiny in advance, decisions can be made prayerfully and, for married couples, in a spirit of marital harmony.

Of course, some of this is easier said than done, and there’s a lot to learn. I strongly recommend a small group or individual study course specifically on personal finances. As a CPA, I was dragged to my first such course by my wife, and now we lead them together at our parish. The benefit we experienced by taking the course together was that of unity – we got on the same page about financial priorities, a pretty big deal for us.

The course of choice for Catholics is by Phil Lenahan, a fellow CPA, friend, and all-around good guy. Of course, it’s also published by Our Sunday Visitor, one of my favorite organizations (I’m grateful to be on their Board of Directors). Check out 7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free or for details. Your investment of time and money in the program will yield great dividends in the future.

As you’ll find, a little planning goes a long way. Submitted to God and made subject to His plan, financial faithfulness takes on even greater meaning and provides eternal benefits. So even the mundane task of budgeting can result in enduring peace of mind and a spirit of joy!