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Budgeting With A Low, Unpredictable Income? Go Figure – Part 2 of 2

Plan For The Reality Until God Changes It

Is it defeatism to accept your circumstances as a base? Absolutely not! You are where you are, nowhere else; so you need to move from there, not where you would prefer to be–be realistic! We see another excellent Bible example of budgeting with uncertain cash flow in Proverbs 6:6-8:

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

Your income will be erratic! Accept it; plan to work with it, and adjust your lifestyle, accordingly. That’s what the Proverb tells us. What are you trying to achieve by budgeting? Precisely what Joseph did in Genesis 41, and the writer tells us in Proverbs 6:6-8. After accepting your volatile income, estimate expenses that might be required in the specific future period to achieve known goals. Here is a rough outline of a simple approach to budgeting with an erratic income:

  1. Joseph knew he had to build barns, store grain, and set up distribution systems. Your income will be limited! Estimate likely income over a fixed period–monthly for the next 12 months. Don’t know? Look at the past. Reflect on the present and future. Estimate the worst it could be, the best, and most likely.
  2. You know you need to pay rent or mortgage, buy groceries, and so on. Will any of your estimates be sufficient to meet your view of the bare essentials? You might need to reassess essentials, especially as some of today’s essentials weren’t invented 20 years ago! Still, you must choose an income level to work with–the worst, most likely, or an average of the two–stay away from the best.
  3. Now your challenge is to answer this question: With your current lifestyle, realistically, will your likely estimated income be enough? If not, you must adjust your lifestyle, probably by a combination of these: Stop eating out, eliminate junk from your diet (that’s a health bonus), cut satellite, cable, cell phone (subject to penalty), and other frills. You can complain, but this is reality. You might want to seek help from your church. Still, it’s a lifestyle matter.
  4. Joseph’s estimate was wrong. He didn’t build enough barns. That’s fine because part of budgeting is adapting to present realities.
  5. As you enter your budget period, regularly, initially weekly, look at your estimates of income and expenses, and where feasible, adjust your lifestyle. Longer term, look at lowering fixed expenses, cost efficiently.
  6. Like Joseph, you need to formalize a system to save funds during surplus periods, for spending when famines arise. How folks view annual tax refunds is a classic example of the abuse of surpluses. Rather than seeing these funds as a base to save for famines, folks spend them before they get them!

Please understand, a budget is your best estimate of how much time, talents, and other resources you will need in a given future period to do specific tasks. And you budget based on limited resources available. Start by accepting these resources and understanding God will provide for your needs. Joseph had to estimate what he needed to do to prevent Egypt from being wiped out by famine. Ants know they need to store food in summer so they have food in winter. Are you prepared to accept your circumstance as the basis to plan to get out of it? Are you prepared to turn over your life fully to Messiah Jesus? He has promised you the abundant life when you seek Him first. Contrary to popular TV evangelists, He has not promised you to be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Copyright (c) 2011, Michel A. Bell

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