“Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever.” – Proverbs 27:23-24

It’s a new year, which gives a natural opportunity to review important things, like finances. There’s no better way to get a handle on your finances than our fifth financial discipline: making a budget.

A budget doesn’t need to be complicated: at a macro level, compare your assets and liabilities to get an overview of your financial situation. At more of a micro level, compare your income with your expenses, and do whatever you need to do to make sure you don’t spend more than you bring in.

It’s financially and morally irresponsible to be reckless with your money and ignore where it’s going. If someone else was spending your money, you wouldn’t appreciate that kind of laxity. You need to realize that you’re dealing with somebody else’s money; you’re just a steward.

Even so, don’t forget to make room for a little fun in your budget. A budget is a roadmap, not a taskmaster. Harold Pollack said that “starvation budgets work no better than starvation diets.” The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Reflect that in your budget.

If living within your means is a real struggle for you, then find a tool to help you track your spending, like Mint or YNAB. Both of these tools are like a Fitbit for your spending. And you’ll be shocked what you can live without. Or you can try the “envelope method,” which involves using cash for everything for a few months to impose discipline on your finances. Learn to live within your means; don’t worry what everyone else is doing.

Handling money is a discipleship issue, not an economic issue. Learn to differentiate between luxury and necessity. Don’t let the fleeting lure of worldly treasures distract you from the call of faithfulness.

Also published on Medium.