Generally when someone mentions the word “budget,” the thought that immediately comes to mind is, “Somebody wants to control me. I will not be able to spend my money on this or that without his or her knowledge or permission.” According to Altagracia Mendez, “The budget is not a straightjacket. It is a picture of you. In the photo you can see how you look, if the color is appropriate, if you need to fix something, and so on. Of course, in order to know where your money is going, you must think about budgeting. Then you will be able to avoid falling into the serious danger of debt or economic deficit” (Dominican Adventist University, Budget class, 1992). This principle could be applied in a personal area (family budget) or to any kind of private or public company.
Now, just for a moment, let’s take a look at a situation in the Bible. A poor widow was in trouble. She was in debt. She couldn’t pay off her loans, and the creditors were demanding her children as slaves. Without her children, her debt would only increase. She would have no one to help her earn a living. In desperation, she begged the prophet Elisha to save her family. The answer that the man of God gave her was, “Sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left” (2 Kings 4:7; read entire chapter). If you are ready to start taking control of your family’s financial future, you must do it through the family budget.
The budget is essentially a summary of all expenses and expected incomes. The aim is to strike a balance between income and expenses. Certainly, one of the aspects of family life that people rarely enjoy dealing with is setting a family budget. However, a detailed budget can save a family thousands of dollars which could enable mothers to stay home with their young children. The truth is that raising a family with a small income is not easy.
Before I got married, I worked at an Adventist institution for over 10 years. One month after our wedding, I was pregnant. Later, I couldn’t continue with my job. From that time until now, we have lived on just one income. We have two school-age children. They have always attended a private Christian school, where we must pay for their tuition. And we can say, with all authority, that with God, this is possible because of our family budget. It is not enough just to have an idea of income and expenses. It is necessary to write everything on a piece of paper, to think about it, and to make necessary adjustments. Another important thing is to differentiate between what we need and what we want. Sometimes those facts look the same, but there is a difference. It is possible to not have any idea how much money is wasted before families prepare a budget.
In fact, setting up a family budget can differ from one family to another based on each family’s specific needs. While one family might feel content to save a certain percentage of their income to buy a car, another family would be satisfied with the idea of keeping their older vehicle and dedicating those funds to an annual family vacation. And not all family budgets are reached in a cozy atmosphere around the kitchen table. Some family budgets are designed by experienced financial planners and agents. But the intent is always the same: planning for present expenses and preparing for the unexpected. When you establish a family budget, it is imperative that you consider the financial needs and goals of each individual and also of the family as a collective whole. Therefore, it is important to include the cost of items such as children’s college funds; a new home or home improvements; retirement savings; and the unforeseeable, such as car repairs or loss of employment.
If you have already read the Bible story mentioned above about the widow, you will notice that Elisha didn’t call the creditors and speak on her behalf. He didn’t give her money to pay off her debts. He just asked two simple questions: “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” (2 Kings 4:2). As she appraised her situation, she identified the only asset she had: a jar of oil. As this widow faced her situation and rationally identified her strengths and weaknesses, she became part of the solution by following Elisha’s advice. As a result of her faith, she watched God miraculously meet her needs. Because she was willing to look beyond herself, she saved her family from poverty, her children from slavery, and herself from utter isolation.
Finally, the family budget can, over time, save you a substantial amount of money. Everybody likes to be able to provide for their family. With a reasonable budget in place, money worries can be a thing of the past. It is possible to say, “I cannot do it,” but remember what the Bible says: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). It just takes planning and dedication.