Personal Finance – A Self Guided Workshop
Also Suitable For Use as a Small Group Study
Four Sessions with Reflections
Developed by the Center For Faith and Giving
Session One – Biblical Understandings
This first session focus on the idea that God ordains order – in the universe, your home, and in the church. The opening thoughts center on God calling order from the chaos so that creation can emerge and be successful. The conversation moves to explore the “household codes” found in the bible that stress order and relationship. This naturally progresses to look at church leadership and the qualities and character that are required to hold positions of responsibility. Not surprisingly, the issue of self-discipline is lifted up. The question that is asked of Timothy (3:5) is significant for us: “If someone cannot manage their household, how can that person manage God’ church?”
This becomes our basis for understanding that managing our finances is a biblical concept and it is the “Church’s business”. Jesus uses the example of constructing a tower as consideration for assessing the cost of discipleship. It is common sense to know that you have the resources to finish a project you begin – yet we do not often act this way with our own financial resources. Paul alludes to the practice of generosity as an act that is planned and managed (1 Corinthians 16:2). For pastors and church lay leaders, it is a key to our leadership success to have our financial house in order. This way we lead from a position of strength and our words possess integrity.
Questions for reflection on Session One:
- Do you experience financial chaos? If so, in what ways? How does it impact your family?
- What is your reaction to 1 Timothy 3:5? Is it true? Why or why not?
- Could bringing order to your financial matters improve your life? In what ways?
Session Two – Economic Rules to Live By
Session two deals primarily with 10 principles that make “economic sense” for ordering your household and that can lead to financial stability. While understood to common sense ideas, for some reason, most of us do not follow these rules, and it is why we experience financial chaos.
Ten Economic Rules
- Don’t spend more than you make.
- Don’t spend all that you make!
- Build a budget.
- Balance your checkbook (electronic statement) each month.
- Set priorities.
- Avoid paying interest.
- Plan for emergencies.
- Plan for Retirement.
- Don’t pay full price – negotiate.
Questions for reflection on Session Two
- In your household, which of the “economic rules” do you follow?
- Are there any of the economic rules that you struggle with?
- Is there a rule you are not practicing that you could begin to practice?
- What are the obstacles you will have to overcome?
Session Three – Getting a Handle On Your Money (and the game to get you to part with it)
This third section seeks to think about money, its power and influence and the importance of understanding how money works in our lives. How does having money make me feel? How does a lack of money make me feel? What does my philosophy on money reveal about my character? Do I comprehend what motivates me to buy? How does money function in a community (are there responsibilities to a greater good that I am obligated to if I have money)? The importance of setting goals and priorities is explored. The fundamentals of saving and identifying the essential expenses in your home are covered.
Questions for reflection on Session Three:
- How much money did you earn at your first Job (and what was your first job)?
- Do you remember what you did with the first money your earned?
- How does money function for you? What is its moral value?
- How were discussions about money handled in your home?
- What are your financial goals?
- What is enough for you?
Session Four – Building the Budget
This section is a simple walk through of the process of building the budget and the importance of accruing money for up-coming expenses. Debt reduction is also discussed along with strategies for paying off credit cards.
Questions for reflection on Session Four:
- Within this process of building a budget, what feels “doable” to you?
- Where are the greatest challenges?
- If you have debt, do you think you can begin to manage it more effectively?
- Can you begin to see where you can “find” money in your current system that can be applied to savings or debt retirement? (See suggested list below)
- What benefits do you see to following this program?
Where is the money? — Places to look for savings in your household.
- Cable services (discontinue premium channels)
- Internet service (reduce plan to slower speeds)
- Cell phone plan (reduce plan – fewer minutes, smaller data use)
- Coupons, buy generic food products, shop sales
- Eat out less frequently (pack your lunch)
- Fewer premium coffees (or none)
- Stop charging on credit cards with balances (to reduce interest)
- Call credit card company to see if you can negotiate a lower interest rate
- Turn down (or up) your home thermostat
- Drive smarter to save gas (combine trips – or walk)
- Stop impulse buying non-essential items
- Don’t replace items for novelty – make do with what you have
- Stop newspaper or magazine subscriptions
- Discontinue services that you can provide for yourself (such as housekeeping or landscaping)
- Buy items used instead of new including automobiles, clothing, tools, etc.
- Consider downsizing – car, house, etc.
- Sell items you no longer use or currently cannot afford to maintain.
- Others….what can you name not on the list?
The presentation takes a very modest view regarding giving and the practice of stewardship. The budget presented only shows 5% designated for charity. This is done intentionally to present to those who are just beginning the budgeting process an “achievable” level of generosity while ordering the rest of the finances. (Note that it also shows only 5% for savings, while the stated goals are much higher.) A place for discussion opens up for the facilitator about “how much” is appropriate for charitable contributions. For church leaders and pastors, the desired amount should be a tithe. Do you agree or disagree?
The Center for Faith and Giving teaches the tithe as “floor” rather than a “ceiling”, believing that the biblical witness teaches this type of generous practice as appropriate for God’s people. For pastors and church leaders to lead with integrity, we believe that they should be growing to this level, and hopefully beyond. This is explored in further depth in other curriculum.
Click here to download a household budget form as an Excel spreadsheet. The form allows you to enter your own amounts and it does the calculations. It also contains recommended percentages for each budget area.