When it comes to evaluating our financial situation, we often find ourselves at a crossroads when we realize that our spending exceeds our income. How do we make everything balance out? Typically, this question shakes out with two logical scenarios: reduce spending or increase income. More often than not, we opt for the latter as it may seem easier to take on a second job or work some overtime. However, our economy has changed in recent years resulting in the unemployment rates going through the roof so obtaining a second job or working overtime is not an immediate solution to our urgent crisis. Hence, we need to look deeper into the first scenario: reducing our spending.
I can testify from personal experience that this is possible, even when it looks like there is nothing else to cut. It is a daunting task, especially when necessities such as food and gas prices continue to rise, but “…[we] can do all things through Christ who strengthens [us].” (Phil 4:13)
In our situation, we had to take a hard look at our grocery budget as there really weren’t any other areas where we could cut back. If you find that there are areas in your budget that can be cut, that’s great. Cut the cable, evaluate the cell phone coverage, dining out, special license plates anyone? However, we are already a one-income family so our budget was pretty bare-bones before taking on this challenge. With some creativity and help from some online resources, our grocery budget is now down to $300/month for our family of 5 (and two cats!). I never imagined it could be done, but God has shown me that by relying on him, he will always provide for our needs.
In our Compass Catholic Bible study, we emphasize the importance of tracking spending for thirty days. I took this a step further by creating a spreadsheet to track every item I purchased at the grocery store. After tracking our purchases for several months I was able to see what categories seemed high in addition to determining the best prices I had found for items we needed.
By being extremely careful in tracking our spending on groceries, I was able to identify areas that could be reeled in while still providing healthy meals and snacks for my family. In the coming months, I will dive into more detail about how Our Lord helped us accomplish this. In the meantime, the first step toward taking a new direction with your finances is to start tracking your spending. If necessary, make very specific categories that will help you identify what is throwing your budget out of whack. With thoughtful planning, relying on Our Lord for wisdom and guidance, things will come back into balance.
”Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and His righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.” ~Mt 6:25, 33-34