The Real Curious George
By Bart Loyd
The internationally popular children’s books by H. A. Rey give us a character that has had me puzzled for years. The stories in Rey’s books are centered around a lovable monkey that sometimes finds himself in peril because of his bodacious curiosity. Have you ever wondered why he was so curious? Was the boredom of a daily routine fostering a dangerous thirst for knowledge? Why wasn’t he given a chore to occupy his time and control his insatiable curiosity?
There is another George who can be just as curious without concern for your future. George Washington! Well, not the man, but the currency that bears his picture. Just like Rey’s monkey, this George can take you to new and wonderful, but dangerous places with blatant disregard for your future. But there is a way to occupy George’s time and alter your ultimate demise. Put him to work in your family budget!
Unfortunately, budgeting is a low priority for many families. There are numerous reasons why people never start a budget. Two excuses are that it is too difficult and it takes up too much personal time. Whatever the reason, living without a budget could leave George too much idle time and leave you in a financial mess.
Most financial counselors agree budgeting for family expenditures is the foundation of a sound financial management plan. But if that is not enough to convince you to control George, then consider what Paul wrote, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (I Timothy 5:8). This Scripture gives us the consequence of not providing for our family. With so much at risk, we should use every resource available to make sure every George is assigned a job. A family budget is the best solution.
Now that you are convinced, are you ready to begin? Every budget should have a destination for George. After all, if he is left unattended he may take us to a shopping mall, restaurant, amusement park, real estate office, auto dealer, golf course, or vacation rental before we were planning to go. To satiate his curiosity we can set obtainable short- and long-term goals. Our budget will then’ have a new destination every several months to eliminate George’s boredom. Everyone’s goals are different for several reasons. Personal preferences, necessities, earning potential and different seasons of life are just a few things that make our goals uniquely individual. These goals are more likely to be reached when everyone in the family helps set the goals.
Next is the difficult part: setting a plan for George to reach his goal. He is easily distracted and must be assigned a job daily. To ease the burden of this task, you may want to purchase accounting software for your personal computer. I recommend Quicken Deluxe by Intuit. It is very user friendly and has an automated feature that draws information from your checking account directly into the budget. If you choose to bank online, you can download all the transactions with a simple click of a button and your work is finished. The budget is real-time and will alert you when George is out of control. You may purchase this software at a local retail vendor or online. If you do not have a personal computer, you may use a general ledger or a spreadsheet and create a budget by hand.
Whatever your choice, your budget should consist of detailed categories for all repeated monthly expenditures. Every budget should have a column for actual expenses and a column for your budgeted amount. This will allow you to frequently compare actual spending against your proposed budget. Being able to compare expenditures daily will allow you to modify George’s behavior quickly and keep him on the road to funding your goals. Consistently comparing your actual expenses to the budgeted amount is the most important key to a successful budget. It is like becoming an accountability partner with George. If you are not the best person in your family to be George’s accountability partner, then designate the person who will give George the best chance at success.
Daily review will let you control your spending. Monthly review will permit you to check your progress of short-term goals. If your short-term goals have been met, this is a great time to set a new goal to create excitement. Annual review should be used to evaluate your progress toward your long-term goals.
While maintaining a budget will not fully prepare you for all of life’s challenges, it will give you a map with which to navigate the difficult times. So if every month you are reenacting the parable of the lost coin just to pay the light bill, maybe it is time to start a budget.
From, “Pentecostal Herald”/June 2009/Page 24-26, by Bart Loyd
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