National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Expecting ‘Rain’

Family Matters - Financial Life

BY Phil Lenahan

March 23-29, 2008 Issue | Posted 3/18/08 at 2:28 PM

 

I seem to enter every year planning to spend less and save more, but I never seem to get ahead of my expenses. Any suggestions?

Wouldn’t it be nice if our income and expenses coincided evenly throughout the year? That would make the managing of our finances a whole lot easier.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way things really work. So we need to make sure that the way we handle our money provides for irregular — or “rainy day,” if you prefer — expenses.

What are examples of such costs? Property taxes (assuming you aren’t on an impound account), various insurance policies, repairs for your home or car — even such things as clothes and shoes.

It’s often such expenses that throw a person for a financial loop. Using their checkbook as the sole source of their financial plan, they seem to do fine handling the regular bills. But as soon as one of these irregular ones comes along, the money’s not there and they end up borrowing to cover the need.

There is a better way. Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” I often refer to this Scripture when encouraging people to create a financial plan for their future. One part of such a financial plan is a budget, and I prefer an annual budget.

What are the benefits of an annual budget? The biggest one is that it allows you to see the forest and the trees. You can see if you are earning, giving, saving and spending in ways that will enable you to meet your long-term goals. When it comes to irregular expenses, a big benefit is that those expenses will be part of the budget.

It’s Good bye to damaging sneak attacks that catch you totally off guard and Hello to anticipated ambushes you saw coming from miles away — even though you didn’t know exactly when, where or how they would hit you.

During the transition to an annual budget, there may be times when one of your irregular-expense bills comes due and you may not have the cash on hand. As long as your budget is balanced and you are spending according to your plan — ongoing tracking of activity is important — you can have confidence that the current shortfall will be replenished.

But what if a bill comes early in the year? How can you be sure the cash will be there to pay it? The last thing you want to do is use a credit card.

This is where your emergency and rainy-day funds come in. They’ll provide the reserves you need to weather any “irregular” expenses or true emergencies that come up. And come up they will. Count on it.

God love you!


Phil Lenahan is President of Veritas Financial Ministries

(VeritasFinancialMinistries.com).