Often I hear people say, “I don’t have enough money to give,” or, “I just wish we had more breathing room in our budget!”
What these people are desperate for is financial margin.
In other words, they need some extra money each month to use just in case. If something happens, they need to know their budget will be ready. They want the freedom to give, save and spend as God calls them. They need to stop the stress they feel from not having any margin. They need options.
One of the most freeing things we can experience financially is having options in the budget. That means we can allocate the income God has entrusted to us in a way that honors Him. We aren’t forced to allocate money to take care of debt and necessities with nothing left over. But that option only comes when we have financial margin.
Good news, guys! That tremendous privilege is available to us all! We just have to take intentional steps in managing our money well so we can get there. We need to have a vision for the future. Proverbs 29:18 tells us that, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (KJV). Here are seven ways to have that vision.
1. Make a monthly budget.
A monthly, zero-based budget is the number-one way to find margin. Want a raise? Then budget, and it’ll feel like you gave yourself a raise! You’ll find money you didn’t know you had—money that’s been leaving your pocket while you’ve been distracted.
Related: How to Make a Zero-Based Budget
2. Downsize your home.
If your mortgage is more than 25% of your take-home pay, you have more house than you can afford. This is a great place to create margin because this is probably the biggest expense in your budget.
3. Downgrade your vehicle.
Vehicle maintenance (or car loans, if you have them) is another large chunk of the budget. Make sure the value of all the engine-powered things you own doesn’t total more than half your household’s annual income. Anything with an engine—whether a car, boat or motorcycle—is depreciating, meaning it’s going down in value. And if you have too much of your net worth tied up in things that are going down in value, it’s a drain on your budget—and your margin.
4. Cancel unnecessary services or do some yourself.
Are you paying too much for cable? Do you even need cable, or would less expensive streaming services do the trick? Can you do some household maintenance yourself? Lawn care, house cleaning, errand running and pest control all add up when you hire someone else to do them. Decide what you really need, then downgrade to a less expensive plan or gear up for some DIY.
5. Make a plan before you go shopping.
Knowing how much you plan to spend and what you’ll buy before you enter the store keeps you from buying on impulse. When it comes to gift-buying, plan your year of gift shopping in January and buy in off-seasons. Or think of more creative ways to bless someone: make the gift, offer to babysit or invite them to dinner.
6. Lower your insurance costs.
Once you have a fully funded emergency fund, you can begin to increase the deductibles on your insurance policies. You’re basically relying more on self-insurance, and your premiums will go way down.
7. Borrow first, rent second, buy third.
We sometimes need an expensive item like a tool one time, but many of us make the mistake of buying it—only to never use it again. Borrow first, and if you find yourself still needing the item often, consider renting. Then, if you still need it a lot and can reconcile the purchase with your budget, go ahead and buy.
If you’re desperate for a little wiggle room in your budget, it’s not out of reach for you. The way to get there is actually really easy! That is, it’s easy if you’re intentional about budgeting your money and making sacrifices in the short term to reach long-term goals. With margin, we can stop worrying about our next paycheck and start concerning ourselves with living for Jesus and for others.