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Domestic Church Mary P.

Financial Stewardship: Creating A Family Budget

Happy 2017! The new year means that people are thinking about ways to change and fix all the things about their lives that need changing and fixing. Faithful Catholics might think about improving their spiritual lives – resolving to start praying more, going to confession more, yelling less, being more grateful, etc. In the midst of that crucial spiritual stock-taking, I want to propose a more “practical” item that deserves consideration – finances. Specifically, I want to address creating a budget.

Money issues are a practical matter, but they have spiritual implications as well. For example, one of the major causes for marital strife and even divorce is financial difficulty or disagreement. Having a workable family budget goes a long way toward creating personal and familial harmony. Without a budget, there is much more room for stress and conflict. More broadly, money is a tool to be used in the service of our calling as spouses, parents, and missionary disciples. We must be good stewards of it in order to carry out that calling. Budgeting is part of that stewardship. 

I’m not in any way a financial professional or expert. Rather, I’m a wife and mom who takes care of the family finances, and has finally found a budgeting system that I can stick to (after eight years of marriage and many failed attempts). I’m someone who has witnessed the dire consequences in people’s lives of not being good stewards of their money. As such, I believe in the importance of budgeting, and want to share some tips for those who do not have a budget.  (There are many resources out there for further information on the topic of budgeting and being a good financial steward). 

  1. Recognize your need for a budget. Even if you are in the top tax bracket, you need a budget. Budgeting isn’t just for those who must watch every penny simply in order to feed their families. On the flip side, even if you think your budget would never be “in the black,” you still need one. You might think that your necessary spending outweighs your income (and thus rely heavily on credit), but creating a budget and tracking your spending will help you see where you might be able to cut back so that your budget can balance.
  2. Find a budgeting tool that works for you. Even if you use pen-and-paper or an Excel spreadsheet, it’s critical that your craft your budget in a way that makes the most sense to you and is easily implemented in your life. I use a website called EveryDollar (created by financial guru Dave Ramsey). Until I discovered this website, I had never been able to create a budget that accounted for all my expenses (not just the monthly, predictable ones), let alone one that I was able to stay on top of. There are other websites and apps out there. Look around to see what will work for you. Take advantage of free trial offers for paid programs (as long as you can trust yourself to cancel before the trial is over if you decide you don’t want to use it!)
  3. Work with your spouse to create the budget, and make a mutual commitment to stick to it.  You both need to be on board with the budget in order for it to work! If either of you are reckless spenders, the budget will be sabotaged. (If you or your spouse are unable to get your unnecessary spending under control, considering talking to your priest or a counselor). Communicate and re-evaluate the budget often.
  4. Use a “zero balance” budget. This is a type of budget where you account for every penny that comes in. If you bring in more than you spend each month on necessities and “extras,” consciously allot the rest to savings or to paying down a debt. By using this kind of budget, my husband and I were able to pay off our student loans more quickly. You should go back and adjust the budget at the end of the month to make sure it zeroes out. If you over-budget in a category like groceries or gas, you can put that extra money toward a category you may have under-budgeted for, or toward debt and savings. Adjust the next month’s budget to reflect your actual spending habits.  
  5. Budget for the bills that you pay on a non-monthly basis, and other irregular expenses. For example, our water bill is paid quarterly. Each month, I set aside one-third of what I expect the bill to be, so that the money is all there when needed. I also have funds set up in my budget for things such as clothing, homeschooling materials, and home maintenance. I put some money into each of those funds every month so that it’s there when I need it.
  6. Track everything that you spend. This is where the website/app I use has made all the difference. I am not “on top of things” enough to record every purchase I make or keep every receipt. For a fee, my budgeting tool imports all my bank activity. I can simply drag and drop each item into the appropriate budget category. Since I rarely use cash to make purchases, this has made it extremely easy to keep track of every expense.
  7. Be realistic. For example, if you think you “should” be spending only $500 on groceries every month, but you can’t seem to come in under $600 no matter how hard you try, then budget for $600 and cut back somewhere else. Part of being realistic is budgeting “fun money” for you and your spouse to be spent however you want (barring anything immoral of course). This helps cut down on the frustration of adhering to a strict budget. If you create an overly-idealistic budget that you can’t adhere to, you are likely to give up on budgeting. 
  8. Set specific financial goals and use your budget to work toward them. One of these goals should be an emergency fund for those unforeseen large expenses (which tend to pop up in clusters). Other goals might include saving for a house or a new vehicle. (It’s best to pay cash for a vehicle rather than incurring debt. But, if you have to take out a loan, you still need to have a down payment saved up). You should think about long-term goals, such as retirement and college funds, as well. 
  9. Make charitable giving (especially to your parish) a non-negotiable. The Church does not require us to give a specific percentage of our income. But we are required to help provide for our parishes. Do not give from your surplus. Instead, give sacrificially, like the Scriptural widow who gave her last coin.

Successful budgeting usually involves a lot of trial and error. Like all efforts at self-improvement, it’s probably not going to come easily at first. Don’t give up. Financial stewardship -of which budgeting is a critical aspect- is part of a life of discipleship. 

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Jesus Is Lord of My Treasure {Week Eight}

TREASUREchrist-king3Welcome to the Jesus Is Lord series, a course offered for adults at St. William Catholic Church in Round Rock, Texas.

If this is your first time visiting this series, I encourage you to take a few moments and read through the series introduction that will give a clear picture of the purpose and content of the Jesus Is Lord course. The introduction post not only outlines the course, but goes over the motivation to share in this class on the internet. 

Today’s class is about Jesus is Lord of My Treasure. Last week’s class was about Jesus is Lord of My TimeIf you would prefer to watch this class, please scroll to the bottom. Keep in mind the recorded classes are not from our current class and contain testimonies from different people than that which is presented in the text below. Check back next week which will cover Jesus is Lord of my Sexuality. 

TEACHING & SCRIPTURE

RECAP from last week: Jesus is Lord of my Time – Sunday Mass, confession, daily prayer time. Father Uche showed us a way to incorporate the daily Scriptures into that daily prayer time.

Today, we are going to look at a passage gives us a general biblical principle before we can make Jesus Lord of our Treasure.

Mark 12:41-44 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Jesus is interested in what we put in the collection.

In those days they didn’t have a collection basket – they had one giant piggy bank for all to see. He was watching what people put in – one put in “$100” “$20.” Then, this old woman puts in a couple of coins worth about one penny. Jesus wants to make sure his disciples see this because He wants to make a point. It’s possible Matthew the tax collector might have taken issue with the woman’s contribution because it’s clearly less than the others put in.

What we put in the collection is an outward expression of an inner condition.

Jesus is looking first at the inner condition.

Where are you at with the Lord?

How do you see the money and stuff you own?

Let’s take a closer look at the biblical definition of a widow.

1Tim 5:3,5,9 Honor widows who are truly widows…The real widow, who is all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day…Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years old, married only once…

A woman’s husband has died, she must be over 60 and have no other family to take care of her. This is what defines a widow. The widow was in a position of truly giving all she had to the Lord. If tonight, I’m going to have a roof over my head, the Lord is going to provide it. …warm clothes…

And she has only one penny…and she gives from her need – all she has comes from the Lord.

And that is where we need to be in our approach toward the Lord.

The others, even though they were giving more money, were giving from their spare. The mentality is I work for my money, so it’s mine. I earned it.

If that’s where we are, then our inner condition is not correct. The inner condition is very important.

Our approach should be if it weren’t for the Lord, I couldn’t get out of bed, have the ability to perform my job. I couldn’t get a job…if it wasn’t for the Lord.

The question isn’t how much you give – the question is are you giving from your need?

Noe initially responded I need it all! I’ve got five kids!

In Scripture, a measure is given so that anybody and everybody can give from their need.

Malachi 3:6-10 Thus says the Lord, “I am the Lord, and I do not change. And so you, the descendants of Jacob, are not yet completely lost. You, like your ancestors before you, have turned away from my laws, and have not kept them. Turn back to me, and I will turn to you. But you ask, “what must we do to turn back to you?” I ask you, is it right for a person to cheat God? Of course not, yet you are cheating me. “How??” you ask. In the matter of tithes and offerings. A curse is on all of you because the whole nation is cheating me. Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple, so that there will be plenty of food there. Put Me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour on you in abundance all kinds of good things.”

Notice that God says to put Him to the test!

The pattern of tithing 10% of household income two generations before in Scripture was lacking – the Israelites would try and tithe. They had 40 lambs, so they would give 4 to the Lord and take them to the temple. But they wouldn’t give their best lambs, they would pick the poorest and sickliest ones. The next generation saw that and said I’m not going to be a hypocrite, I’m just not going to give anything. Tithing was beyond their scope, so God tells them to tithe so He can bless them and challenges them to test Him.

EXAMPLE. Father O’Malley gave talks about the rosary, frequent confession, tithing to a group of 300 Mexicans…and in his {Noe’s} culture, what you put in the collection is called limosa – what you give the beggars. That’s how the Israelites dealt with God…like a beggar.

I’m going to give this to you and you better be happy that I did!

Father O’Malley was very pragmatic in his teaching. It’s real simple – you take the decimal point and move it over two places.

At the time, Noe was putting $5 in the collection…or $22.50/month. However, after hearing Father O’Malley’s talk, he realized he was shorting God $21. Noe came to Mass with a brand new shirt that cost $20 and he felt disconnected and couldn’t place why…then it dawned on him and he understand why he was disconnected. He had bought the shirt with His money – with God’s money. At that point, he was convicted and was ready to tithe, but had questions.

Is this tithing thing retroactive?

Fortunately, the Lord does not take ignorance into consideration, so it’s not retroactive, but now you know!

Father O’Malley said the next time income comes in, just write a check for 10%. That seemed like a good idea until Noe’s check came in…and it was TERRIBLE. He considered it HIS money. But, he did it and he put the Lord to the test and he hasn’t looked back since. He lived for five years on donations with five kids, serving the poor in Mexico and they never went hungry, they even paid for one child to be born in Mexico. They always had what they needed, and the biggest blessing was not money, but in their kids. They’re all content – they were ok with going to Goodwill and knowing how much they could afford. The Lord saw fit to bless their children with full scholarships to college, one of whom has a Ph.D.

Once, Noe did this teaching – not at St. William – and one of the guys said he read in Scripture that we decide what to give and to give it cheerfully.

2 Corinthians 9:2,7 for I know your eagerness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia 2 has been ready since last year; and your zeal has stirred up most of them…Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Someone else said that Jesus never talked about tithing, but we see in

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. (But) these you should have done, without neglecting the others.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TITHING AND OFFERING

Tithing – We don’t give the tithe, we pay it – it’s like the light bill. You don’t get excited about it. You pay to God because it is owed. God decides the amount – 10%

Offering – You give an offering. And you decide how much you give this organization, etc. You offer to the brothers. YOU decide the amount.

If you’ve never heard this teaching before, you might have a lot of questions.

Q. Is this from the gross or the net?

Sometimes the offering and the tithes clash – there can be a gray area – that’s why it’s critical to make Jesus Lord of my Time so you can take it to prayer and see what He says. Your tithing and offerings won’t look like what Noe is doing, it’ll be what God wants you to do.

Q. Can paying for Catholic school be considered part of my tithe?

Ask the Lord!

EXAMPLE. His daughter earned some money. She took it to prayer and decided to give 5% to a family member in need and the rest to the church. This is what God revealed to her in prayer, and so it is with us. If you are unsure how to divide up our tithe or offering, take it to prayer!

Q. What if my 10% is not being properly allocated? {someone gave an example of what’s going on in Germany}

Noe shares that his approach is that he is not giving it to a priest, or a church, but directly to God. Once he has given his 10% to God, it is up to the person to whom it was given to render an account with God on how it was allocated.

Q. Is it a sin not to tithe…is God’s love incumbent upon our tithe?

This question comes from a sincere heart – God’s love is not incumbent on tithe. He loves us simply because we are His children, not for what we do, but who we are. God’s blessings come through the tithe, though. It’s not a sin to not tithe, if you’re in a state of ignorance!

EXAMPLE. If the Lord tells me to forgive my spouse, and I refuse to forgive, is it a sin? YES. If the Lord tells you to tithe and you don’t do it, you are disobeying. A blessing is something that brings you closer to the Lord – and sometimes they can come disguised as both good and terrible things that happen to us.

Q. What if one spouse wants to give and the other doesn’t?

If you’re married, the wife OR the husband can not decide to tithe – you have to come together prayerfully to decide.

EXAMPLE. The wife was a school administrator and the husband was a coach. She went home and TOLD her husband they were going to start tithing, and he objected. So, they didn’t. She continued to feel called to tithe, but he didn’t want to. So, she came up with a solution – she would tithe from her check.

Tithing is the antidote to greed.

Q. Building a new parish and you give a generous gift – raising funds to build it. It goes beyond your tithe for three years, does that count as a tithe for three years?

Yes, possibly. But, in all this, do whatever the Lord tells you. Take it to prayer. When the parish puts out a financial report, it shouldn’t affect our tithe if we don’t like where the money is being spent. We are giving the money to the Lord.

Q. Is the 10% broken up among church, diocese, and other charities?

The Lord will place it on your heart where the 10% should go. It’s not cut and dry, the important thing is that you are praying everyday and you are doing what He is asking you to do.

Q. Can an offering be in the form of your time?

No, because we are addressing the monetary side.

Q. Wife stays and home {does not work} and husband works – can the wife ask the working spouse to tithe?

As stated above, the couple needs to come together prayerfully to decide what to give.

Q. Is tithing related directly to YOUR church and no other? Do you give it to the parish where you are registered to or some other place?

The parish where you receive your sacraments should get a good chunk of your tithe, but not necessarily the whole 10%.

EXAMPLE. In 1988, the priest where Noe worked, sent him to a community where he work with families. Because he was there once a month and ministering, he wanted to give half of his tithe to this other location. So, he went to the head coordinator and the coordinator said give it all to the parish. The priest said to give it all to the community. Noe ended up giving 5% to each.

Q. If you donate a vehicle to the church, like St. Vincent de Paul, or giving to the homeless –  is that considered tithing or offering?

It’s considered an offering.

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION

  • PRAYER
  • QUESTIONS
    1. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE DAY OF THE HOMEWORK?
    2. ANY COMMENTS ON PRAYING FOR YOUR PARTNER?
    3. WHAT STRUCK YOU ABOUT THE PRESENTATION?
  • HOMEWORK 

Each day from here on out through the rest of the class you will read and reflect on the daily readings or the reflections from One Bread, One Body. You can access them by going to the USCCB’s website OR you can download the Laudate app {available on iPhones and Android}. The One Bread, One Body reflections can be accessed through the Laudate app by going through Daily Readings => Reflections.

For more reflection, click to download Praying with Scripture.

 

SUMMARY

Homework is to be done daily – reflect on Scripture and Jesus is Lord of My Treasure through the week. If you are in a group, pair up two or three and commit to pray daily for your prayer partner. Small groups come together for a few minutes of question and answer in the large group. If you have any questions, please leave a comment in the combox below so that we can help in any way possible.

CONCLUSION

Prayer of Abandonment

Father,
I abandon myself into Your hands;
do with me what You will.
Whatever You may do, I thank You:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only Your will be done in me,
and in all Your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into Your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to You with all the love of my heart,
for I love You, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into Your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for You are my Father.

Charles de Foucauld

OPTIONS: If you would like to watch, please visit the St. William Adult Faith Formation page to watch the previously recorded class.