“For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost, to see if he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28
Budgeting. That is the first step to having a Preparedness Plan in place. If you are serious about having a preparedness plan for you and your family, then you need to be serious about budgeting.
Over half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. One study even puts that number at 78%. That means that most people are just one crisis away from financial disaster. Financial security is the bedrock of any effort to be ready for disasters. And it all starts with having a sound budget.
In theory, budgeting is pretty simple: just don’t spend money you don’t have. Easy enough to say, much harder to do. What exactly does a good budget look like?
There are lots of sources to help you set a family budget: Dave Ramsey, online finance course and many churches offer financial counseling. But the simplest formula is the 50-30-20 rule. With this system, 50% of your income goes to fixed expenses like rent, utilities and insurance. 30% goes towards discretionary spending–food, clothing, entertainment. Food is included in this category because it is not a set amount. With careful management, you can keep the costs of food, clothing and entertainment modest and manageable. Finally 20% goes towards your financial goals: short-term savings, paying off debt, saving for retirement.
Yet, even with all these resources, most Americans still have a problem with money. It’s almost as if math doesn’t work when we start talking about budgeting.
The real problem
Here in the U.S., poverty is not really a problem. Oh, yes, there are pockets of poverty in our country. But real poverty – the kind that leads to starvation and profound deprivation – is not nearly as widespread as some might believe. Most of us probably have enough to get by. And when we run into difficulties, there are lots of safety nets in place to help us. Government assistance programs, food pantries, and charitable organizations are all at the ready to help those in financial straits.
The real problem is “affluenza,” extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth. Affluenza symptoms may include compulsive shopping, high debt, overwork, inability to delay gratification, a sense of entitlement, obsession with externals and “having it all,” and wastefulness. It may result in chronic stress and dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, and impaired relationships
The problem is not a lack of money. The problem is an unhealthy concern with money.
That’s why, as you set your budget, it’s important to emphasize abundance. We have been given so much – a free and prosperous nation, families and friends, knowledge, and so much more. If we focus on that abundance instead of our wants, we’ll find living within a budget is not onerous or restrictive but liberating.
As you set your budget, consider where your priorities are. Ask yourself if your spending priorities reflect your values. The key is to master money. Mastering money is more than just the math that balances income with expenses. It includes the emotional, spiritual, and mental components of earning and spending. If you are aware of these facets of budgeting, money becomes a useful tool and not something that controls or sets the pace for your life.
When you master money, you will find it easier to achieve your preparedness goals. That’s because your budget and your goals arise from a sense of gratitude and abundance, not lack or need.
Take the self-test (link below) to see how well you’ve mastered money.
So let’s get started
Decide how you are going to prioritize and budget your money. When you have a clear idea of your financial plan, decide how much of your money can go towards implementing your preparedness plans. You might want to practice some frugal tips to reduce your food, clothing, and other discretionary costs. Or you can use a portion of the 20% that goes towards your financial goals to purchase emergency supplies. The key is to make planning for emergencies a regular part of your family budget, not an afterthought.
With careful budgeting, debt reduction and frugal practices, you will not only be able to live within your means but will create a cushion that will shelter you from the winds of financial uncertainty.