I don’t know about you, but for me trying to budget money feels a lot like math homework, and I thought I had better things to do with my life even while I was still at school! Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, we need some kind of system to function as a “faithful and wise” manager of the resources God entrusts to us.
The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? Luke 12:42
That’s why I came up with the 4 accounts idea. 4 accounts are all you need to be a faithful and wise manager of your money. Whenever money comes in you simply divide it across the 4 accounts.
The 4 accounts
In our house we set up 4 bank accounts but you could just as easily keep money in 4 envelopes if it better suits your circumstances. Let’s look at each account in turn.
I call our survival account my family’s household account. It’s where we buy the basic groceries, pay the rent and utilities and run the car. We try to keep these expenses as low as possible. If my savings and investment income one day exceeds those expenses then I am financially secure – I could lose my job and still have enough to live on.
Remember the party the father threw when his lost son returned home (Luke 15). In the old testament the Jewish calendar is filled with feasts and festivities to celebrate God. Some of the tithes in the Bible were collected specifically to pay for those celebrations (e.g. Feast of Tabernacles, Deut. 8:6-18, 12:4-7, 14:22-29).
In our family the celebration account is where we pay for our holidays, birthdays, Christmas, or a nice meal out. If we see something special in the shop that doesn’t qualify as survival, then it is paid for from here.
Mission is what it’s all about. Doing God’s work here on earth. Being the hands and feet of Jesus. The salt and light of the world. If we get this part right, God promises to look after everything else.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
In my finances, the mission account funds my own family’s personal development (school, learning material, conferences) as well as supporting the missions of other organizations. God wants us to be generous on every occasion, so good gifts for friends and the extended family also come from the mission account.
You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11
Storehouse is for personal savings and investments. The Bible does stipulate against some kinds of savings:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
This is a challenging verse, particularly to Western ears where so much of our security is predicated on financial security. My response is to invest in assets which are aligned to Kingdom values, and which have an intrinsic value to me. This means I derive satisfaction from owning them, even if their price on paper is heading down. I try not to invest in anything for financial returns alone.
Such an approach excludes many of the traditional asset classes favored by investment professionals. You may be more likely to buy a home with minimal debt, than to take out a huge mortgage and invest money in shares. Coincidentally you would be generating far less revenue for the finance industry by not paying interest charges and trading commissions…
The proportion you choose to allocate to each of the 4 accounts will depend on your personal circumstances, and will likely change over time. My aspiration is to one day achieve 85% going to Mission, and 5% to each of the other accounts.
If you have a job but are lucky enough to live at home rent-free, consider dividing equally between the 4 accounts – 25% to each account.
If you are heavily committed already and struggling to pay off debt then you might need to go the other way, and put 85% to survival.
An easy proportion to remember and calculate is 30/30/30/10. If 10% goes to celebration then the remaining amount is split equally across survival, kingdom and storehouse. This is actually easier to achieve than it may first appear. Parents who feel their mission is raising Godly children can dip into the mission account for childcare costs, and those mortgage repayments could legitimately come from the storehouse account. Also, if your private income is from running some kind of business you probably want to take out your expenses before you distribute to the accounts!
I hope the above has been helpful. Do let me know in the comments if you have any questions or suggestions and let me know how you get on.