How to set up and maintain a personal budget

In relation to maintaining a personal budget and staying out of debt, I find the following helpful:

Keep a record of expenditures in a small notebook. Record the date, place, the item, amount paid by cash, credit card or check. Keep a similar book for each car and a book for housing costs.

Go over detailed expenditures and determine where reductions or elimination can be made when funds are low for paying bills or when credit card balances are coupled with high interests.

Remember that the first items paid each month should be tithing and fast offering. I testify that Malachi is right about the blessings received from paying these offerings. (See mal. 3:8-10)

This method has worked for me for 63 years of married life. I learned that this method helps prevent family disputes and helps reduce stress during financially hard times.

As a bishop, I learned about the money problems of our members. We should work to increase the number of full-tithe payers in the Church. - Richard C. Setterstrom, Fairfield, Wash.

How we did it:

In control

Contrary to the idea that a budget deprives you of your money, you will find that a budget puts you in control of it.

Even on a low income, a budget, when adhered to, will prevent the problem of spending heavily on payday and having nothing for the whole week before.

A budget is your list of financial priorities. It is a plan of how you will use your financial resources in attaining your goals and meeting your needs.

Tithing should always be included. It is the Lord's law of thrift.

Included in a budget should be future spending, regular expenses and savings.

A budget will generate fiscal discipline, prevent unplanned spending and meet required payments on a timely basis. -Neldon B. Jensen, Salt Lake City, Utah

Peace of mind

We found early in our married life to survive we had to have a mutually firm handle on our finances. At first we listed every expenditure to see where our income went. Then we categorized our main expenses, including mortgage or rent, utilities, and groceries, on a monthly basis. We also figured in our tithing. We then took the total and divided by 4.3 to get our weekly expenses, if we were paid weekly. Then we knew how much to take out of each paycheck.

The money accumulates in our checking account until it's needed to pay the bills. It is tempting to buy a "want" when there's hundreds of dollars in our account; however, we remind ourselves that the money is already spent on future bills.

We call "extra" the difference between monthly expenses and income. That amount is used as needed and helps us answer the question, "Can we afford something we want?" If expenses are more than income, we must decrease the former or increase the latter.

Living within our means has brought us security and peace of mind. -Dwight and Christine Carroll, Oak Ridge, N.C.

A hundred fold

In 1950, as a young investigator of the Church, I attedned a stake fireside. The speaker said: "There are only tow types of people who deal in interest-those who understand it and those who do not understand it. Those who understand it, collect it. Those who do not understand it pay a high price.

Then he counseled, "Pay your tithing with the first 10 percent of your income, help your parents, family or fellowman with the next 10 percent as needed and save the next 10 percent."

He added, "That will leave you 70 percent and if you live within this amount the Lord will bless you a hundred fold."

The challenge was too much for a skeptic to accept simply on faith and too rewarding to disregard. I promptly adopted an inviolable pro-cash/anti-debt policy and frequently confirm the counsel of that speaker by reading Mal. 3:10. -Paul J. Parish, Whittier, Calif.

Open communication

Financial comfort depends not on how much money we have, but on how well we manage what we have. Rather than looking at a budget as a set of handcuffs, we look at it as a road map to heop us know and understand where we are going financially and how we will get there.

From our early days of marriage 25 years ago, we have gone through a formal budgeting procedure every four to six months. All projected income and expenses are listed on a 12-column spreadsheet according to our pay periods. This is one way to even out the peaks and valleys that occur in the cash flow. It helps to look ahead for several months, so that expenses that occur less frequently, such as insurance payments, college tuition and vacations, can be planned for.

In addition to budgeting for regular expenses, we also keep keep a prioritized wish list so we both know what major capital expenditures will be made when we have the money.

Probably the greatest benefit we have experienced from budgeting is thee open communication we have as husband and wife about money matters. We view money management as a shared responsibility. -Betsy Nagel, Metaire, La.

Yearly check

Every new year we look over the expenses and if necessary we adjust a particular expenditure column. We have 11 categories in our budget, including tithing and fast offering, house taxes and insurance, utilities, car repairs, clothing and shoes, miscellaneous, donations and birthdays, newspapers and magazines, food, and travel. We use this budget also to write the amount of canceeled checks in a column.

Some of the expenses depend on income and what we can afford, but some columns, like utilities, are not flexible. This way we have a good idea what we can apend and we never come into financial trouble. -John L. Roozemond, Salt Lake City, Utah

Personal allowance

Our budget includes tithing, taxes, living expenses and savings. We review our budget annually and before any major purchases. Our priorities for living expenses are debts, food, shelter, transportation and personal.

With everything else budgeted closely, the personal allowances are, by contrast, comfortably generous, without strings attached. It is quite important that we have something of our own to spend however we want - frivolously even - without guilt. This freedom to spend spontaneously on trips, ballgames or for ice cream helps us maintain our otherwise strict budget with a constant good-steward attitude. -Barbar Szabo, La Jolla, Calif.

How to checklist:

Categorize expenses; determine needs and wants.

Make tithing and other offerings a priority.

Learn how interest works for or against you; avoid debt.

Realize both spouses share responsibility for a budget.

Write to us:

Jan. 16 "How to have family home evening when everyone has different schedules."

Jan. 23 "How to get children involved in doing work for their kindred dead."

Jan. 30 "How to stop looking for the storms of life and enjoy the sunlight."

Feb. 6 "How to conform our desires to the will of God."

Feb. 13 "How to maintain and enjoy good health."

Feb. 20 "How to help children cope with life-threatening

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Include a phone number. Contributions may be edited or excepted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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