Category Archives: Control Spending

How Can I Break Out Of Paycheck-To-Paycheck Living?

Many who struggle with their finances are living paycheck to paycheck, and can not see a way out to break the cycle and start saving and planning for the future. This cycle can generate strong emotions and a feeling of defeat and hopelessness.  What might surprise many is that people feel this way across many different income levels. Living paycheck to paycheck is not just a function of low income. It is a function of choosing a lifestyle whereby your expenses match or exceed your income. Even many with high incomes still live paycheck to paycheck.

There are many successful strategies to help people break this cycle depending on the financial circumstances and personalities of the people involved. I am not trying to cover all of them, but rather give some basic insight that perhaps can help you in how you approach the situation.

Many want to think… if only I could make more money, then my problems would be over. More money certainly has the potential to help but is not typically the answer. Often people who live paycheck to paycheck do not solve the problem when they increase their income… they just increase their spending.

As an example, consider that many who are considered “low income” in a country like the USA are actually wealthy by global standards. If you have shelter, clothing, and a steady supply of food you are actually doing well by global and historical standards. Many of the other things we think we “need” are really just “wants”. All too often we judge what we “need” based on what we see others around us have rather than true needs.

Step 1: Prayerfully ask God for help. Submit to Jesus Christ and change your behaviors and attitudes to be different from the world and more like His. Ask Him for help specifically with your finances.

Step 2: Clearly separate in your mind true “needs” from “wants”. Need is really limited to such things as basic food, shelter, clothing, and safety. Even much of the more expensive food, shelter, and clothing qualify as “want”. I do not need brand-name clothes or expensive food or an expensive home.

Step 3: Commit to yourself and before God that you believe you can and that you will, take steps to pull yourself out of your financial situation even if it feels difficult and you have to give up things you like and want. If you don’t believe you can or if you are not committed to taking sometimes painful steps, you will fail.

Step 4: Find an accountability partner who you trust to share your finances with, or at least your expenses. It works best if it is someone who will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you might want to hear and also if you find someone who is a good role model. A good role model is someone who is demonstrating the behavior you want to achieve yourself. In this case, find someone who has already gotten out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and is planning successfully for the future.

Step 5: Track your expenses over a few weeks or a month. Really write down everything you spend… as you spend it. You can use your phone’s “notes” app or you can carry a pad and pen. Next to each item consider and write down if it is a “need” or “want”. Be careful in assessing what food and clothes you buy. It is too easy to say “need”, when in fact we may have spent more money than truly needed in order to get a style or amount of food or clothes that we “wanted”.

Step 6: Review with your accountability partner. Discuss your assessment of need and want for key items. Add up the seemingly small expenses in categories rather than ignoring them. For example, if you get a Starbucks coffee each day for a few dollars, that may seem small but actually, over a month it can be significant. Identify some of the wants in your spending that you can change your behavior on and reduce your expenses. Make a plan and write it down.

Step 6: Execute your plan based on the wants you choose to avoid based on prior spending. Take that same amount of money directly into separate savings or checking account… or an envelope in a secure location if you prefer. You have just started saving for the future and are still living on the income you had last month.

Step 7: Repeat, starting back at step 1. Look to increase how much you put aside for the future. You must start with seemingly small, achievable goals as you change your attitude and behavior. As you start to experience success you will likely increase in confidence and motivation and be prepared to take additional steps to improve your situation.

Soon you will be able to start planning for the future… establishing an emergency fund, generating an operating fund (allows you to absorb unexpected timing issues on expenses or income), and then future costs like a car, school, and retirement.  There are also longer-term decisions that may help you improve your situation such as growing your income, but that topic is the subject of other posts.

Are you ready to break the cycle of paycheck-to-paycheck living? What will your first step be?


Remember that all you have belongs to God. Manage your money God’s way. Visit

Does God Require Us to Donate Money to Support Those in Full-Time Service to Him?

There can be a debate about whether or not the tithe is still required. Separately, one can ask, “If we pay a tithe, do we have to pay it to the church?” There are arguments on both sides. We could have these debates, and if done based on scripture, they could be significant discussions. If done based on our emotions or the tradition of men, they have significantly less value.

Perhaps the more significant question is not “Am I required to tithe to those serving God?”, but rather “Is it pleasing to God?” We can also explore the perspective of one who would be accepting such donations.

I am going to start by focusing on scripture from Paul in 2 Corinthians 11.

2 Corinthians 11:7-9

     7Or did I commit a sin in humbling myself so that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you without charge? 8I robbed other churches by taking wages from them to serve you; 9and when I was present with you and was in need, I was not a burden to anyone; for when the brethren came from Macedonia they fully supplied my need, and in everything I kept myself from being a burden to you, and will continue to do so.

I do not claim this is authoritative for every situation, but rather very interesting to note. Paul accepted money when it was offered, but did not require it or pressure people to give to him just because he was preaching the gospel to them.  Those that gave to Paul arguably were not giving to the “church” as we think of it today. That would have been tithing to the Levites at this time. If they had only tithed to the Levites, Paul would not have received financial support. Neither would any of Jesus’ disciples or Jesus Himself in His earthly ministry.

It is probably worth highlighting at this time that Jesus accepted donations from supporters. We know from the biblical record of the money found in the mouth of a fish and the miracles of the loaves and fishes that Jesus could have simply made His own money. He set an example by accepting support from others. That said, I have not found any scripture where He passed around a collection plate during His teaching and asked for money either. He did not appear to make it a focus of His ministry to ask for donations.

 Luke 8:1-3

1Soon afterward, Jesus began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

If we look back to the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible), we can see how the LORD provided for the Levites. He did not give directly to them an inheritance as He did for other tribes. He instructed others to provide for them.

Numbers 35:1-5

Cities for the Levites

     1Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, 2“Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities. 3“The cities shall be theirs to live in; and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle and for their herds and for all their beasts.

      4“The pasture lands of the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits around. 5“You shall also measure outside the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits, with the city in the center. This shall become theirs as pasture lands for the cities.

I believe God is pleased when His people choose to support those He calls into full-time ministry. Some of us will serve Him in business roles (e.g. Daniel, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, many of the people were farmers, etc.). However, some will be missionaries and pastors and Biblical teachers and these may need the support of the community of believers as a means for God to provide for them.

I would encourage these individuals to also consider the example of Paul and work in such a way as not to be a burden to others. They can provide sometimes for their own needs or be modest in what they spend. One receiving donations from hard-working people should not be flying in private jets unless they earned that money in another way aside from donations.

Keep in mind that Moses turned away donations that were made when they were in excess of what was required. It was not his goal to get personal wealth from donations from the people.

Exodus 36:3-7

 3They received from Moses every [g]contribution which the sons of Israel had brought to perform [h]the work [i]in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him [j]voluntary offerings every morning. 4And all the [k]skillful people who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from [l]the work which they were performing, 5and they said to [m]Moses, “The people are bringing much more than enough for the [n] construction work which the LORD commanded us to [o]perform.” 6So Moses issued a command, and circulated a [p]proclamation throughout the camp, saying, “No man or woman is to perform work any longer for the [q]contributions of the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing any more. 7For the [r]material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it.

Do not let your own selfishness or greed stop you from making provision for those whom He calls to His service. Give joyfully. Give generously. However, I also encourage you to give wisely. Do not assume your job is to simply write a big check to the local church. That is not a very active way to steward what He has provided you. Remember, it all belongs to Him… He has just entrusted some of His things to us to manage and enjoy.


Remember that all you have belongs to God. Manage your money in God’s way and use it for His glory rather than your own. Visit .

Contentment Is Essential for Financial Success

Financial success is not to be measured against an absolute standard of money earned or by comparison of net worth to others. There is always someone with more money. Financial success is achieved by matching our resources to our needs and desires while we humbly live for God and serve others. Finding contentment rather than coveting what others have is essential for finding this success. Then we are free to find our joy through relationship with Jesus Christ, who promises never to desert us.

Ecclesiastes 3:12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime;

Hebrews 13:5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,”

The United States of America is a wealthy nation. By global standards even many considered to have low income in the USA are relatively wealthy. Despite this relative wealth, most consider themselves to be living day-to-day or month-to-month. They genuinely feel that they are barely getting by. There is insufficient planning for the future, insufficient savings and little investment. There is much coveting and little contentment.

We could double the money everyone is earning, and I dare say the broad results would be largely unchanged. Many people would have more stuff they want (and do not need) but would be no better prepared for the future and still be unsatisfied because they don’t know how to be content.

For those who cannot find contentment with what they have, they may never have enough. There is always the potential to have more. The ability or willingness to be content provides a foundation for satisfaction in achieving personal success.

Of course, contentment should not be confused as an endorsement to be lazy. Instead, in proper context, contentment provides important balance in managing your work hours required to generate income, controlling spending and debt, in how you select your investing strategies… and opens wide the door toward giving to others and serving God.


Remember that all you have belongs to God. Manage your money God’s way. Visit

Increase The Money in Your Pocket Now

I know people are in a range of different places with regards to their finances. Those that have a solid foundation already are optimizing spending and debt management and looking for investment opportunities to grow their finances.

However, many simply feel like they are running as fast as they can to just stay in place… never making progress toward their goals. Long term job selection and career or skill development seem far off objectives.  They want to know how to get more money now.

There are at least two very effective ways to get more money in your pocket quickly.

For those of you who have jobs that are commission or “tip” based or those who have the opportunity to work overtime, simply working hard and working longer hours can be effective short term to generate more income. Of course, that effort may not be sustainable long term without detriment to your personal or family life. It ultimately only bears meaningful results if you take that money and pay down debt or create savings or investment funds. If you work harder and then just buy more stuff you “want” but do not “need”, then it has not accomplished anything substantial.

The second approach is undeniably effective, if done in meaningful way. Reduce your spending! You not only keep the money you have earned, but do not forget that you have already paid taxes on this money. A dollar saved is worth more than a dollar earned. It really is yours to save and invest… so long as you do not spend it. To be most effective, start by challenging everything you are spending money on, starting with larger expenses first. Differentiate true “need” from “want”. Aggressively reduce spending on “wants”. Yes, it will feel uncomfortable and force you to change your behavior. But it absolutely generates cash in your pocket at the end of the month.

Want to see how much impact you can have on your finances? Just commit to yourself to test for a month saying “no” to any discretionary spending. In other words, really distinguishing “want” from “need”. Take the extra money you save at the end of the month and put it aside to pay down debt, start an emergency fund, or start preparing for investing. See how quickly you can use this simple approach to get your finances under control. If you are not confident you can commit to this challenge for “no” discretionary spending, then simply set up an assigned dollar value to spend toward your “wants” for the month and track even your small expenses to avoid exceeding that target. Try reducing that target next month. See how much you are actually spending on “wants” and “convenience” vs. “needs”.

Yes… buying that morning coffee from the coffee shop instead of brewing at home counts as “want” and the added cost does matter over time.


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Build Your Income Before You Build a Bigger House

Build your income before you build a bigger house. This sounds obvious, but so many today start by getting deep in debt in order to have a bigger house “now” rather than waiting until they can wisely afford it. Then they say “It is ok, because everyone else is doing it. It is normal.” or “A mortgage is good debt, an investment.”

The advice comes from God in Proverbs 24:27.

  27Prepare your work outside
And make it ready for yourself in the field;
Afterwards, then, build your house.

God is not telling us to go to work while we have no shelter to protect our family. God is telling us to build our income stream through diligence before we focus on more spending and get deep in debt. That way we know what we can wisely afford while stewarding what He provides.

The truth is that you pay a lot of interest on what you may consider “good debt”. The truth is that many people you look to as “normal” are poorly prepared for the future and living beyond their means thanks to high debt load they assume they can pay back later. They are not ready for retirement. They are not even ready for small emergencies like appliances needing replacement or car repairs. They are really living month-to-month despite income that would be considered in the top 10% of the world.

Do not look to the people around you to determine what your standards should be. They may be drowning in debt and high spending. They may simply have a greater ability to generate high income.  Whatever the reason, don’t look to other people as your example but rather look to God and build your own plan based on lifetime objectives, not month-to-month spending. Be content with what you can wisely afford. As you build your income, establish savings, and establish a credible financial plan for your future you will be better prepared to make wise decisions around if/when you can afford to buy more expensive house, car, boat, etc.


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Spend Like You Did Not Get a Raise; Budget Like There Is No Inflation

I am sure many of you can identify with the following example from my own life. I lived for many years without a mobile phone. I did not “need” it. I was used to living without it. Once I got one though, I found I got so accustomed to the convenience that it would be hard to give it up. I found a similar experience with the speed of my home internet. Dial-up and then DSL speed were fine, in fact wonderful breakthroughs in technology for their time, until I got used to something faster and then I could not go back. The bottom line… it is easier to avoid increasing our spending then it is to reduce our spending once we get used to having what it buys.  So, if you want to control spending, a good way to start is to avoid increasing your “standard of living” when you get more income. This could be income due to a raise, or income due to reduced tax burden. Either way, you have more money and you do not have to spend it frivolously.

No matter how rough you think you have it right now, most of you reading this on the internet have enough to get by with what are truly essentials of food, clothing, and shelter. We are not talking about fine dining, name brand clothing, and mansions… just the basics. Most people throughout the world would be glad to have what we in the USA refer to as a “poverty” standard of living. We have developed high expectations and a sense of judging our happiness and success by comparing the things we have to what others have. This is not God’s standard, but rather one based on coveting what others have instead of appreciating what God has already provided for us.

Too often people get excited to spend every increase in income they receive immediately for short term gratification to have fancier clothes, nicer house, more expensive food. Thus, even as they increase their income, they still remain in debt and lack any substantial savings. They just increase spending to match increases in income, or worse… with anticipation of continual rise in income they start getting deeper in debt, sure that they can pay it off sometime in the future.

If want to improve your financial situation over the long term, try this instead. Next time you get extra income from overtime, annual bonus, or a raise… pretend you didn’t. Keep your spending flat. Instead, put the increase to paying down debt or to savings, which will lead eventually to having money to invest when you are ready. If this is too hard to set aside the full amount of the raise for this purpose, then dedicate as much of the increase as you can. Maybe you can at least put aside 50% dedicated to paying down debt or saving. Maybe 75%.

One of the most effective ways to do this with today’s technology is to automate part of your paycheck routinely going to a separate account from the one you use for monthly spending. Then the extra amount never even shows up in your checking account for example. You keep spending like you did not get a raise, and all of a sudden you start paying down debt and creating a long-term stream of savings which will lead to money to invest.

Pray for God to help you be content with what you have rather than chasing what others have and trying to “keep up with the Jones'”. Identify a clear goal that the money is going toward such as working out of debt or building an emergency fund or starting an investment fund. Share your goals with a family member or trusted friend and celebrate milestones as you make progress!

Although it may be hard, this can apply also to inflation. If you can, try to keep your spending budget steady, even if prices are rising. It means you will have to cut back on what you are buying in order to “absorb” inflation. In some cases, you may have to pivot to lower cost options or brands for some items. In other cases, you can buy some things less frequently or in lower volume. If you can hold your spending budget flat in the face of inflation, then you protect any money you have budgeted for savings, paying down debt, or creating an investing fund. Short term pain helps create long term gain.

As always, seek wisdom and encouragement from God along the way and from any trusted mentor you may have. Just make sure you pick a mentor that models the behaviors and outcome you want to achieve. Not every friend is a good financial mentor.


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A Small Leak Will Sink a Great Ship

Many of us are tempted to dismiss small expenses as irrelevant when it comes to budgeting. We spend $5-10 or even more without really thinking of it as significant. At the end of a month, we may be surprised to find out how much those small expenses add up.

As a simple example, if we eat out even for only $5/meal for breakfast and lunch each weekday that can add up quickly to over $200/month!

There is a quote I remember from Benjamin Franklin that paints a great picture that makes this easy to remember.

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship.”

As a small leak that lets water in a boat can sink even a great ship, so too can small expenses sink a budget. While it is always a good idea to start cutting spending by looking at the largest purchases you make, it is also important to look in total at where you spend seemingly small amounts of money consistently and repeatedly.

I find it helpful to use software like Quicken to track these small expenses monthly and total them up to see what I am spending money on. It can be quite surprising at times. If that seems too much trouble for you, just take the time to review your credit card statements and add up the little expenses by category. This will help you see where you are spending your money and how simple changes in your habits may really help you patch the holes in your budget.


Remember that all you have belongs to God. Manage your money God’s way and use it for His glory rather than your own. Visit .

Cutting Spending? Start With the Big Expenses.

When you set out to reduce spending, focus on the bigger expenses first. Clipping coupons and switching to generic or lower cost brands can add up to significant savings and should be considered, but there are larger areas in which to begin.

Start by identifying your major expense categories and then estimate how much you are spending in each area.  Include items like housing or rent. Consider long term expenses like if you will own a car, what car you will purchase, how many and how often. Remember that owning a house, car or boat not only means the cost of that asset but also cost to maintain and use that asset (e.g. insurance, gasoline, utilities, etc.). It also includes the cost to borrow money to buy these assets if you get a loan instead of saving up first.

The concept is called a Pareto analysis. Organize your expense categories from largest to smallest and then focus your time  on reducing expense in the larger categories first. You also want to look in the smaller categories and look for any easy changes that can reduce cost by a significant amount. But don’t get so distracted by the smaller costs that you forget to really challenge yourself on your larger expenses.

You can save a lot of money by differentiating between want and need or by setting your budget first based on income and long-term objectives before deciding what you can afford. Avoid the typical approach of starting with expensive homes and cars you want and then forcing it into your budget.

A good way to help avoid major cost and buying significant purchases you really are not ready for is to not go into debt to purchase them. Yes, I said it. Avoid debt. Save up the money ahead and then buy them. You actually can do this for a house, car, boat, etc. But it takes discipline and long-term planning. Saves a lot of money as a result. This goes for credit card debt as well, which can be quite significant for some families and all it does is let you buy something you either can’t afford or buy something before you can really afford it and thus pay more for it to get it sooner. Patience and contentment are indeed virtues.

Remember that all you have belongs to God. Manage your money God’s way. Visit .

Tax Time Again… arrgh. What Would Jesus Do?

It is that fun time of year again… tax day is approaching. No doubt, most of us… with rare exception… would prefer to pay less taxes (or no taxes) to the government. Many are tempted to lie and misrepresent their income to the government in order to reduce their tax bill. We should take care to consider what God wants from us, instead of what we want. There is no qualification about agreeing with the government on how the money is to be spent in order to pay the taxes. We are simply to pay the rightful taxes due.

Romans 13:1-7

Be Subject to Government

      1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Matthew 22:15-22 

Tribute to Caesar

      15Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17“Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19“Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 22And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.

Ok. So we are supposed to pay the rightful taxes due. Got it. That said, paying taxes is a lot like spending money. We should do so carefully and only pay what is required. There is no “extra credit” in overpaying taxes. In fact, government often uses the money inefficiently and without wisdom. In almost all cases government uses the money without giving glory to God.

We should pay careful attention to how managing our money affects what we pay in taxes. Key decisions in investing and estate planning can have big implications. To ignore the significant impact of taxes on our financial planning is to be irresponsible and likely pay too much money to the government. If you want to give it away … that is great, but find a way to honor God with the money and give it away wisely rather than overpay the government.

Many reputable investing sites have resources to help such as those at Charles Schwab’s online resource center section on taxes or Fidelity’s online guidance and retirement section on taxes. These resources can be very helpful. So too can relatively affordable tax software like TurboTax which make complying with your tax requirements accurate and more efficient… saving much time and headache. If you prefer, consult your financial advisor and tax professional for impacts that you should consider for your financial planning.

The money we pay in taxes (federal, state, local, income, sales, inheritance, etc.) represents a lot of money. Understanding how to optimize your tax burden will help you achieve your overall financial goals more effectively.


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The Way of a Fool Is Right In His Own Eyes

We should be careful to listen to God’s advice. Those who wish to become wise, who love knowledge, must accept discipline and correction… must recognize that others may have more wisdom in some areas than ourselves. That is how we learn and get better.

Proverbs 12:1 and 15

1Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
But he who hates reproof is stupid.

 15The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.

If you are not humble enough to acknowledge that others may have wise input worthy to consider, that you may have made or be making mistakes than you will continue to make mistakes.

Be humble. Seek wisdom. Accept correction from God and from others. Learn from it. Grow in wisdom.

These fundamentals apply to all aspects of life… and certainly to all aspects of managing your finances. There are great examples of public organizations or private advisors that can help. Most people even have others around them that may have good input.

For a few examples, please visit our resources section of our website.


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