Becoming a Financial Steward 3: A Date with Data

So, you are working on or have completed Step 1 (see my previous post) - CONGRATULATIONS!

You took your financial health assessment and had a heart to heart. I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that heart to heart revealed something about your current relationship with money that didn’t sit too well.

Now, it’s time to go on a date with data.  

I know, this feels like a total setup. Well it is; but you’ll appreciate it later. Ok, let’s grab some coffee with Data; that is, all of your financial records. Why?? Great question, I’m glad you asked. You see, If you aren’t keeping track of where you are spending your money, then you can’t get anywhere!
Now you may be groaning inwardly...and that’s a typical first reaction.  But honestly, the WORST part is not knowing where your dollars are going. Trust me on this one.

Sure you’re probably saying “Sarah that’s just not true, the worst part is definitely going to be finding out what my personal finances look like on paper.” I get it, but here’s a true fact: if you never see it, then you can never move from where you are now to where you want to be.
Does it take some effort?  Yes. Will it be easy?  Maybe not at first, that’s true - but it can be easier soon because the more work you put in, the easier and better it gets. I promise.

Andy Stanley, one of my favorite speakers on the subject of personal finances, has a catchy line that goes: “You got to be knowin’ where all your money is goin’.” If you don’t know then who does?  Well truthfully, if you don’t know then the bank and your credit card company are keeping better records than you. Can they can’t set your goals for you?  Can they give you personal finance fulfillment or be the ones to choose your financial freedom? No and you’re probably paying them on a monthly basis for things you don’t need and then tipping them with interest!  The time has come to take back your life and instead of letting your finances control you, to give God control of them and become a wise manager.

You will begin to experience freedom you have never felt before.

We are going to start this week with a simple little exercise from Cown.org called the “Quit Claim Deed”.  This was one of the first things we did 12 years ago and it was life-altering because it was mind-changing.

Scroll to the bottom, click “Quit Claim Deed” print it out and fill it in
  • If you want to view the sample first, click on that

Ok, to get started you need to grab:
  • A pack of highlighters - at least 5-10 different colors
  • Your last 3 months worth of bank and/or credit card statements
  • Pay Stubs - your last 3 months worth

Now, grab a nice steamy mug of your favorite brew and…
  • Print out your statements! OR view them online and use the simple spreadsheet below to enter the expenses from your statement
  • Create a KEY for each highlighter color and name each color a different category i.e.: Groceries, Clothes, Home Expenses, etc... then go through each months statement and highlight each expense in the right color.
  • Now, go through color by color and add up all expenses of the same color and total them for each category, for each month.
  • Ok you’re done!!!

Keep in mind, you are not creating a budget yet! You are simply getting used to seeing your ACTUAL spending and realizing where you spend money and how much you spend in a month. It’s helpful to start with 10 general categories to understand where things have been going. You will begin to break these down as we go along.

Now, look at your categories and their totals. Does your spending surprise you?
Are there any categories that stand out to you because of the total? If so, why?
Are there any categories that you would like to see a lower total next to? If yes, put a star next to that category. Are there any categories that you feel should be higher?

LAST THING, now that you have added up to your expenses, grab your pay stubs and add up the total of what you get paid in a month. Then, do a little simple math - Take the total of your pay in a month and subtract the total of your expenses for that month.
What happened?  Was the number positive or negative?  What does this tell you about how you are spending?  

This week, reflect again on the true ownership of your possessions.
Psalm 50:10-12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
-Sarah Bateman, Director of Community and Finance
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