Monday, February 11, 2008

Your Finances In 2008

We have recommended that husband and wife have a meeting to discuss and plan your finances. This meeting should also include a time of prayer and dedication to each other, and to the Lord. As this new year has begun, my wife and I had such a meeting.

Like some of you, we consider our finances to be "healthy or not". We found our budget very adequate to take care of our needs. Though we weren't dipping into a credit card or taking out a loan to make ends meet, we did find that our finances were "flabby and soft". The budget lines we set up had become blurred. We had many monthly expenses paid for out of money which was not washed through the budget... and not really accounted for. As we redesigned our budget, we not only added new line items, but also found money that could be deposited to earn interest that had been merely collecting dust.

Most of you either already have a budget, or know how to put one together. Our book provides the ABC's of building a workable budget for your family. We have been following the same basic budget for decades. Our meeting showed that, even after your budget is in place, it is important to re-visit that plan periodically to see where it can be improved.

One of the things we changed was to add several categories to our budget to account for all the money spent. Case in point: last year, we started raising chickens. It costs money to provide food and buy hay for their bedding. We had no budget item for this, so we were robbing one of the other budget accounts to pay for this. We now have a budget item called "Animal/Pets" that we use for chickens, dog food, flea/tick treatment, etc. After tightening up our items, we now have a much better handle on what things are costing us, and what we don't really need after all.

It takes time each month to account for your items, but the fruit of this labor will be in better control of your money. Our goal was to free up dollars we could redirect to an interest bearing account. As this account reaches a certain level, the extra is redirected into longer term investments. Our meeting discussed not only our budget, but also business expansion, investments, and other longer term projects. It was exciting!

My wife also loves the challenge of cutting the budget further to save for other things, like ladies retreats. Instead of having a budget for "Retreats", she simply takes the savings from "her budget items" (groceries, clothing, school, etc.) and sets those funds aside for upcoming events. You see, we not only like to attend these retreats, but we also really enjoy providing a love offering on top of that. All of this should be included in your planning.

My wife also performed an inventory of bulk foods we have stored. Every so often, we purchase dry goods in bulk that we store away. This dry food (like rice, various kinds of beans, and powdered milk) is used in recipes for our family meals. Cooking at home saves TONS of money over buying convenience meals! The use of bulk goods further reduces the cost. Buying little bits in the grocery store is expensive compared to the same item purchased in bulk. The grocery budget is one area that most people can save lots of money in. It takes thought, planning, and daily diligence, but your family is worth all of this... and more. As you free up money, be sure to reinvest some of it into bulk foods for your family. This investment will produce ongoing savings for you.

If you have not had the planning meeting with your spouse, it is time to do so. It's a new year, and you should be looking forward to it. Make the most out of what the Lord has given to you today. Seek His wisdom for your decisions, and see things begin to change for the better.