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Battling the Monthly Budget

Do you remember learning about the Battle of the Little Bighorn in history class (commonly known as "Custer's Last Stand"), a battle in which Lakota-Northern Cheyenne tribes annihilated George Armstrong Custer and all his men?

Of course, the Cheyenne tribes had the superior warriors that day. But several contributing factors led to Custer's demise: a poor military strategy and communication skills, for starters. Historians even suggest Custer put a little too much stock in his own military might, while underestimating his opponent.

Every month many families wage war of a different sort. There are no rifles and arrows involved, but much like Lt. Col. Custer's last stand, they are woefully unprepared for battle.

You see, when your family operates without a financial strategy, when you don't communicate to each other about money management or when you don't trust that God will provide Sunday through Saturday, you inevitably set the stage for a financial variation of Custer's infamous defeat.

Consider this:

  • Only 1 in 5 people use a monthly budget. Fetterman, Mindy, "Financial diet tip #1: Carve up your expenses," USA Today, 15 April 2005.
  • Families carry 2.1 trillion in debt, up from 351.9 billion in the late 1970s. Fetterman, Mindy, "For many Americans, it's time to go on financial diet," USA Today, 15 April 2005.
  • About 50 percent the families surveyed spend $2,500 to $5,000 a month on debt payments. Fetterman, Mindy, "Financial diet tip #1: Carve up your expenses," USA Today, 15 April 2005.
  • Savings are at an all-time low, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Analysis. We tuck away only 1.2 percent of our income. ibid.

Now let's assume for a moment that your family has a realistic budget and a sound financial strategy. You've cut out the morning latte and weekly Amazon.com purchases, and you are among the 22 percent of Americans who claims they waste no money

ibid.. Still, after paying off expenses, your family is left with only pennies to spare. Despite your best efforts, saving for emergencies is out of the question.

If this sounds like your household, a change in tactics might be in order.

Perhaps it's time to reevaluate spending habits for necessities like housing, food, transportation and insurance. Even small savings can add up over a year.

Another option is to examine your attitude. Are you overconfident like Lt. Col. Custer or have you made God the centerpiece of your financial decisions? Are your budget battles all-consuming, or are you embracing Christ's instructions in Matthew 6:25: "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?"

Maybe you've never developed a solid financial strategy. If so, sticking to a monthly budget is a good start, but it's only the beginning. Wherever you place yourself on the money management scale, the following advice from Crown Financial Ministries may relieve some of the stress and help prepare you for financial battle.

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Next in this Series: Budget Busters, Part 1