7 Steps for Money Management in a Christian Marriage
Money problems are one of the main reasons marriages fail and, in this session, we will provide you with:
- The core reasons for money problems;
- The biblical basis for managing our money; and
- 7 steps to resolve money problems:
- Identify the facts – Income and Expenses
- Prayer – Confession and Repentance
- Agree the Action Plan
- Establish a Budget
Topic 1 – The Core reasons for Money Problems
At its simplest, money problems occur because we spend more than we receive. This may occur because of activity within our control or outside our control or a combination of both.
Activity within our control:
- Spending too much on essentials (e.g. food, clothes etc.) and/or non-essentials (e.g. items for hobbies, multiple vacations, etc.);Losing income e.g. getting oneself fired from a job;
- Poor stewardship e.g. credit card debit, no budgeting etc.
- Irresponsible spending e.g. gambling.
- All of the above.
Activity outside our control:
- An unbudgeted expense e.g. an illness, accident etc.
- Being laid off at work
- Exceptional item e.g. a theft, flood etc.
- All of the above.
Topic 2 – The biblical basis for managing our money
The core promise to stand on for our finances is:
God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
It doesn’t say all our wants but all our needs.
One of the most powerful passages in the Bible about how to manage our finances comes from Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is talking about the priorities in our life.
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore,do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:24-34
We live in a self-centered culture but Christians are called to be God centered. This means we are looking for our fulfillment from God and not from the world.
Christians are the richest people on the earth because, with Christ in us, we have love, joy, peace, eternal life, power etc.
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36
What benefit is it if we had everything we ever wanted but, on the inside, we were miserable – no love, peace, joy etc.
On the other hand, with Christ inside us, we may not have anything significant on the outside but if we have love, joy, peace etc. we are very rich. We actually have the things people are after when they chase after money and financial independence.
After having an encounter with God in 1980, I decided to give up my business and give away my money. In the first two years of our marriage, Jeannie and I lived below the bread line in central London. We stood on the promise that God would provide our needs and, for two years, every month we would receive financial gifts (sometimes anonymous). Jeannie stayed at home to look after our baby, Rebecca, and not once did we ever go without food, although we came close!1
God called us to London and we had peace living in a council/project apartment with some dangerous neighborhoods nearby. Everything we had was second hand, and yet we had wonderful love, joy and peace. We were fully alive!!
In the parable of the sower, we’re told,
The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:19
The first step to properly manage your money is to search your heart and decide to trust God to meet your needs. Agree that only God can truly satisfy your heart.
1 There were two occasions when Jeannie didn’t have enough money for an evening meal. However, on both occasions a lady came up to Jeannie and pressed some money into her hand (it’s a tradition in London for older ladies to give young mums a gift for their baby). This is only happened on the two days that Jeannie didn’t have enough money for a meal!!
Be a good steward of what God has given you
There will be a time when we have to give an account to God of the things He has given us, and we will be rewarded for our faithfulness.
For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. Matthew 16:27
We get to heaven by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:10). However, having come to faith in Christ, we are rewarded for our faithfulness to God’s calling on our lives.
Whether God’s given you a little or a lot, find your contentment in God and be faithful to use your money wisely to give glory to God.
God sees us as one, and Jeannie and I have always been totally transparent with each other about our money. We both know our household income, expenses and debt. From the beginning, our first priority is to give the first fruit from our income back to God (we believe all our income is God’s and He is simply allowing us to steward it for His glory). As a minimum, the first fruit is 10% of our income (a tithe). We did this even when we were living below the bread line.
In our marriage, we have gone from having nothing materially, to living in multi-million dollar homes etc. to currently living very simply in a small 700 square foot apartment. As the apostle Paul said, ‘we have learnt the secret to be content in any and all situations’ – Philippines 4:12. It’s not what we have on the outside that gives us fulfillment but what we have on the inside.
Topic 3 – 7 steps to resolve money problems
1. Identify the facts – Income, Expenses and Debt:
Get a clear picture of your financial position today. Write down:
- Income – All the regular income that is coming into your home.
- Expenses – Every monthly and other expense you can think of (this might include quarterly or annual payments).
- All that you owe.
2. Prayer – Confession and Repentance:
Pray with your spouse over your financial position. Thank God for all He has given you and acknowledge that He is your source of contentment and fulfillment. Confess if you have been a bad steward of your finances, repent, by acknowledging you are going to change your habits going forward and ask God to give you the wisdom and strength to properly manage your money in the future.
3. Agree an Action Plan:
Identify how you are going to manage your income and expenses going forward. Be realistic and very conservative. It’s often harder than you think!
In line with your confession and repentance, you may have to have a radical change in life style to properly manage your money.
Income – Identify anything you can do to increase your income e.g. ask for a raise at work, get a better job, additional work e.g. from home etc.
Expenses – This is probably where you will have the most impact. Separate the essentials (food, rent, utility bills etc.) from the non-essential (hobbies, excessive clothing, vacations etc.). Identify how you can make savings in both lists. Maybe you can cut out all of the non-essentials until you get on top of your finances?
Debt – Identify a plan to pay off all debt where you are paying high interest rate/s e.g. credit cards, pay day loans etc. Maybe you could do this by refinancing your mortgage (ideally at a lower interest rate), taking out a bank loan (at a lower interest rate) or from another source. If you can’t refinance, identify and agree how quickly you can pay off the debt from existing income and by reducing your expenses. Plan to get down to only one or two credit cards on which you pay off the full balance every month i.e. no interest payment.
The goal is for you to be managing your money and not your financial problems managing you!
Decide which one of you is going to manage the household finances (whoever is most proficient with numbers/managing money). Of course, whoever is not managing the household money should have access to see the numbers at any time.
4. Establish a Budget:
This is a very important step. Ideally, do this in an excel spreadsheet and list everything. In the top part of the spreadsheet list all your income and, underneath, your expenses. You are going to list everything you agreed in your plan – as much detail as possible.
The total of your expenses is your family budget. When you take your budget from your income figure you should have a surplus, in line with the plan you agreed in step 3.
Initially, I suggest you do this week by week. After you start to get in control of your finances you can do it on a monthly basis.
The rule is that you must not exceed your family budget. If one expense goes up, then you have to find savings in other expenses to keep within the budget. It’s wise to build a 5% or 10% contingency cushion in your budget – this is an amount allocated to exceptional items. If it’s not used, you will have the encouragement of doing better than your original plan!
5. Monitoring :
This is another critical step. You must record in your spreadsheet the actual income and expense for the week/month. Unless you’re on commission, your income will probably not change very much. However, your expenses need very careful monitoring. List everything against the budget number in the left-hand column – food, gas, electricity, etc. Credit/Debt cards – keep a very detailed record of how you have used your cards. You don’t want a surprise at the end of the month and, don’t forget interest charges. It may be prudent to stop using some or all of your cards for a while, to ensure you keep tight control of your spending.
Both be accountable for your part of the budget. Remember, you’re working as one – if one does well, you both do well. Encourage each other – make it fun. You are going to get on top of your finances. Your finances are going to serve you and they are no longer going to be your master.
Agree the review period e.g. every week, month etc. Have a celebration and thank and praise God as you start to get on top of your finances.
If you are not keeping to your plan, identify exactly why not and sit down together to discuss what went wrong and how you are going to change things going forward.
Make the whole process an adventure. You have a mission and, by God’s grace, you’re going to conquer an issue that destroys many marriages.
Recognize it’s going to take time, it will need some sacrifice but you are going to come out much stronger together.
Cover the whole process in prayer and treat each other with love and respect at all times.