Growing up, I played baseball. In small town Indiana, Little League was big time. It was with great anticipation that I got dressed out for the games each week, and I would spend hours of free time daydreaming about hitting the game winning home run. My love for baseball stretched into my high school years, and then when I married and moved to Atlanta in the early 1970s, my family enjoyed having a major league team to root for each summer.
One of the worst enemies of the home run is the foul ball. Just a few feet right or left of the foul line, and a beautiful line drive into left field becomes just one more strike in the count.
Budgeting and baseball have something in common. In both arenas, the fair territory is wide, but the foul lines help to keep the game honest.
A “budget” or a spending plan is just a series of pre-made decisions that guide you as you spend your money so that you stay within your income. As you make those decisions and come up with that plan, you are, effectively, drawing the “foul lines” of your financial playing field. Extravagant vacation = foul ball. Weekend away = fair ball. Designer hair cuts every month = foul ball. Designer hair cuts every twelve weeks = fair ball.
Do you see what I am getting at, here?
I think that when many people think of a budget, they call to mind a tightrope. They see themselves walking a razor-thin line of demanding financial pressures. In my experience counseling with people, however, the only kind of spending plan that works is one with a wide “fair territory” and clearly marked “foul lines.”
To create a spending plan that has fair territory and clear foul lines, follow the following three steps:
Determine where you are already spending money.
Decide where you want to be spending money in order to meet your objectives.
Determine a plan to control your expenses.
This process will take time and it will also take communication with your spouse. Be sure to give yourself a few months to track spending, some time to put a plan in place, and then several months to manage and control your expenses to fit within your plan.
There is a downloadable Excel budget worksheet form on our website at http://www.ronblueinstitute.com/tools. If you want to keep track of your spending by hand, then you can download a PDF of a spending plan here.
If you follow the budgeting process and give yourself the grace and time to create a plan, you will find that budgeting is more like baseball than like a tight-rope walk. As you do your best making financial decisions, you will know when a choice falls into fair territory or when it falls outside the foul line.
May God’s peace encourage you as you pursue financial wisdom and depend on His Truth.