It’s quite a challenge to stay on a budget when you are in the ministry. Our hearts want to spend money on projects and ideas for the church. But sometimes, the funds are just not there and the temptation is to pull out the credit card. As easy as this is, it’s important for us as stewards of God’s resources, to resist the temptation and spend only what we have the cash to spend.
I asked a friend of mine to share how their pastoral family manages their budget. She does the budget thing so much better than I. We should all take this very seriously and
try live within our means. Chrystal will take over from here.
Getting on a Budget and Staying On It
Hi, Friends, I’m Chrystal and I’m excited to be sharing on Mandy & Michele’s blog today!
My family blogs over at The Smallwood Parsonage about all things life…recipes, simple living, adventures, gardening, music and book reviews, and gatherings all from the unique perspective of a parsonage family. My husband and I have been in full-time ministry close to 20 years. We are both ordained, though at this season in life he is the breadwinner, serving as the senior pastor of our rural Pennsylvania church. I am currently a stay-at-home, homeschooling, blogging, sock-washing, dog-cuddling mom, who still keeps her hands busy in ministry.
Over the years God has led us to live a simple, intentional lifestyle…
… teaching us every day what it means to let go of material goods and dwell on the important. It hasn’t been easy, and it certainly has been a journey, but let me explain how we have gotten here. After we had been married for three years, both graduated from college and beginning our careers in ministry we wanted to start our family. Hopes and dreams were building as we both planned and prepared for the babies God would bless us with. I had always dreamed of having four children and becoming pregnant with our first baby only made me even more excited. Life, though, and pregnancy didn’t go as we dreamed it would. In the following three years we miscarried twice, suffered the loss of a twin baby to Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome, and gave birth to two beautiful girls. It was a difficult three years.
After losing three children, we decided that life could either become a misery or a celebration.
We chose that it would become a celebration and we continue to live that way 15 years later.
We choose to …
- a simple life,
- intentional living.
- spend our money on making memories, rather than on what some might consider essentials.
- believe in eating from the earth’s bounty.
- believe in giving back as much as we can.
- aim to live life beautifully and authentically.
Purchase Chrystal’s book about her miscarriages, Choosing Joy
We live on a small income by American standards, though we realize it is much compared to much of the world.
Many pastor’s families live on small budgets. But living on a small budget doesn’t mean life can’t be well lived. We think it means just the opposite. A small budget forces us to consider each purchase, each dollar, what our priorities are. It gives opportunities to decide what matters and what doesn’t. I’m listing below some things we keep in mind and practice to help us live within our means, perhaps encouraging some of you to implement some new ways to live within your means as well.
First, I want to let you know eight things we DON’T include in our budget:
1. Housing-Like many pastors we live in the parsonage and all basic housing expenses are paid for by the church.
2. Cable television– We just don’t have it. *see below for an explanation
3. Home Phone: The church pays for our basic local service and Jeremy’s cell phone; we use our cell phones unlimited talk and text plan for long distance.
4. Internet-the girls charter school reimburses for internet expense for their students. So while we pay this out every month, it is reimbursed to us at the end of the school year. We really only pay for the internet three months of the year when school is not in session.
5. Car Maintenance-Jeremy drives the local ambulance and works one day a week as an EMT. These extra incomes, along with weddings and funeral honorariums are put aside for car maintenance.
6. Car Payments-our cars have been paid off for a number of years.
7. Home Educating resources-We use an online public charter school and they provide all the needed materials for the girl’s education free of charge.
8. Debt-We have no consumer debt.
Here are some practical things we have found help us to be good stewards of our resources.
Maybe you will find a new nugget of information that will help you to live within your means:
1. Tithe. This must be a priority. God can do exceedingly more with 90% of our income than we can ever do with 100% of it.
2. Make a budget and stick to it. This might take some homework if you’re not an active budgeter. There are a number of solid Christian resources out there regarding budgeting tips and various ways to budget. They are worth a look. If you know someone who is a great budgeter, financial planner ask them for help. Decide who will be in charge of the budget-both husband and wife? Just one or the other? I am better at budgeting and bill paying and daily running of the family and household. Jeremy is better at saving. He is in charge of the envelopes (explained in #3)
3. Use an envelope system for keeping the cash. A portion of our weekly income gets taken from the bank and put in envelopes for safe-keeping. Extra things like monthly bills to be paid, money for clothes, summer church camp fees, vacation, bulk meat purchase, family treats, and Christmas are included in these envelopes. It might not seem like there is much money at the beginning of saving in envelopes, but that money adds up quickly. When a monthly bill is needing to be paid simply take the money from the envelope put it in the bank and pay the bill. If Vacation or Christmas is coming just take the cash from the envelope.
4. Cash in those coins. We keep a small green glass chicken next to our kitchen sink and a large water bucket next to the washing machine. Any and all change (that’s left from my kids raiding the chicken to go to Christian Skate Night at the local Roller Rink with the youth group) gets put into either the chicken or the bucket. We recently took our coins to a Coinstar machine at the grocery store to convert it to cash. I didn’t want to have to pay a percentage of the total so instead we redeemed our coins for over $100 on a no-fee required Amazon gift card and put the gift card in the Christmas envelope.
5. Commit to a No-Spend Month – For one month, don’t spend money on anything that isn’t a basic need or an emergency. Keep in mind children’s birthdays and holidays when planning a No-Spend Month.
6. Slash your spending.
A. Groceries: The USDA says that a typical family of four (2 adults/2 children) will spend between $150 and $300 per week on groceries that’s $600-$1200 per month! Use coupons, cut out Starbucks and going out to eat, cook from scratch.
B. Entertainment: Our daughter Anna receives free books in return for her review on our blog, play board games, host a potluck, enjoy a family movie night, start a new tradition. catch a free concert in town, go for a hike. There are lots of things to do that don’t cost money.
C. Shop at Thrift Stores: there are some serious name brand, high-quality clothing at thrift stores.
D. Exercise: Walk or run daily, take advantage of a friend giving away exercise equipment, head to a local lake and swim for free.
E. Extra-curriculars: limit the children to one extra-curricular activity per season-this cuts down on time and money. If you have someone who will teach a skill for free ask them or barter in exchange for lessons.
F. DIY as much as possible. There are so many tutorials online for DIY projects we almost have no excuse to not use them.
G. Use what you have: Use up the freezer foods, watch the old movies, wear the tie you’ve had for years but is still in good condition.
7. Get rid of non-essentials. We haven’t had cable for 17 years and have survived. For years we used antenna tv only, but in our current home, located in the mountains, we have to pay 20$ for basic cable or we wouldn’t get any networks, PBS or the “Old Shows” as my kids call them.
8. Prioritize: Decide what is and isn’t important to your family.
- Do you want to see the world? BUDGET
- Do you want to take an expensive vacation? BUDGET
- Saving for the kid’s college or wedding? BUDGET
- Want to treat your spouse to a nice Valentine’s Day Dinner? BUDGET
9. I realize not everyone has time for preserving food as we do. It takes a considerable amount of effort and time but buying foods while they are in season, or gardening is very cost-effective, supports local farmers, allows God to provide you with food that He created, and is overall better for health and taste. Cooking at home, buying seasonal foods, freezing, canning, drying or dehydrating foods are all options for making healthier, budget-friendly food choices.
10. Organize and Simplify-One way to live within your means in to know what you already have. At one point years ago I realized I owned 20 glass vases. Twenty! I quickly got rid of all but 5 or 6 of them that had special meaning to me, but the others went to the thrift store. Getting and staying organized will tell you what you do and don’t need. Anything that’s extra? Get rid of it by giving it to thrift stores, social service agencies, needy neighbors. Be cautious about getting rid of family antiques though-you’ll likely never get them back.
Lastly, but most importantly, we must Pray and give God Lordship over our finances.
Ask Him …
- .. to provide in miraculous ways.
- .. to show you what is and isn’t important.
- .. for a financial blessing.
- .. to make you and your spouse partners in financial matters.
Always allow God to provide for you through miracles and through His people. If people want to share the bounty of their gardens, or buy those new tires for your car or offer to help in some other way let them.
Allowing people to be vessels of God’s grace to you is a blessing to you and to them. Allow them to be the givers God is asking them to be.