Money Goals for 2022 Day 3: Better Planning for 2022
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)
For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” (Luke 14:28-30, ESV)
Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. (Proverbs 13:16, ESV)
Now that we’ve discussed how to recover from Christmas spending, it’s time to take a long-term approach and think about the year ahead. That’s a great idea, but where do you even start? I think the best place to start is to take a look at the year that just ended. How did it go from a financial perspective? Did your meet your savings goal? Did you chip away at any long-term debt? How much were you able to give? Did you find yourself stressed out throughout the year because of financial issues? There are many questions to ask looking over the last year.
My wife and I find it helpful to open our budget file at the start of a new year and see where things went right and where they went wrong during the last year. It’s a great way to diagnose issues like overspending (dining out, clothing, splurges, etc.), check your level of giving, see if your prior year goals were met, and see how different events impacted your financial health. We like to use a Microsoft Excel file (I am an accountant), but I know others who use budgeting apps, Google Docs, and even handwritten notes. Whatever your method, use it to your advantage by looking back over the previous year to learn from it and apply any of those lessons to the new year.
If you don’t have a method to track your income and expenses, I would recommend finding one. Like I said before, I prefer Excel because I’m an accountant, but you should use whatever you find the most helpful and intuitive. It’s a great way to set goals and see how you’re doing in real time during each month. Plus, you will have an exact number of how much money you have left in any given month. Once you start doing this year after year, it will get easier and easier. The initial budget can be difficult to set up, but each subsequent year can just be based on the previous year’s budget.
If you have been keeping track of your finances, use your prior budget and make tweaks based on what happened in 2021. Didn’t give as much as you wanted to in 2021? Figure out what needs to be cut out for that to happen in 2022. Didn’t meet your savings goal in 2021? Find out the reason and see if it can be avoided in 2022. Go through each line item in your prior year budget and prayerfully consider what can be improved in the new year.
If you are new to budgeting, start with your current situation. Write down how much you make each month and how much you spend. It’s amazing how quickly your monthly income can dwindle away in legitimate expenses (mortgage/rent, utilities, giving, food, etc.) and all the “extras” (clothing, dining out, cable, subscription services, etc.). How does it look now that it’s written out? Is there a shortage of cash at the end of the month or a surplus? Are you spending way more on some things than you thought? Are you doing better than you ever imagined? Now you can formulate your plan. Think about how much you want to give, save, invest, and spend over the next year and how to make it happen. The first step is to make a plan. It may result in facing a harsh reality, cooking more meals at home, or ending a subscription service.
Whatever method you choose, just make sure you choose something and stick to it for the entire year. It may help to remember that this money isn’t even ours; it’s the Lord’s and we are just stewards of what He has given us. Because of this, we should have even more motivation to get it right in 2022 and bring honor to the Lord. It would be my prayer that each one of us develop and stick to a financial plan in 2022: saving more, giving more, and bringing honor to the Lord with what He has blessed us with.