Tag Archives: budget

Ask The Readers: How Does Your Annual Spending Compare?

I figure a lot of folks are doing their taxes these days, so it might be a good time to ask a budget and spending question. I’m curious as to how your annual spending compares to the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Here are the 2008 stats, find the number of people in your family and look at the column on the right.

2008 HHS Poverty Guidelines

in Family or Household
48 Contiguous
States and D.C.
Alaska Hawaii
1 $10,400 $13,000 $11,960
2 14,000 17,500 16,100
3 17,600 22,000 20,240
4 21,200 26,500 24,380
5 24,800 31,000 28,520
6 28,400 35,500 32,660
7 32,000 40,000 36,800
8 35,600 44,500 40,940
For each additional
person, add
3,600 4,500 4,140

I don’t know how many of you keep close track of your monthly spending, have a monthly budget or anything like that, but if you do, follow the steps below and fill out the survey questions.

  1. Find the Poverty line for your household size on the chart.
  2. Take your monthly or annual budget.
  3. Subtract from your monthly or annual budget any school loans.
  4. If you have a mortgage, subtract the Principal and Interest portion, and only include the taxes and home insurance. (Anything you’d continue to pay even after you no longer had a mortgage and completely owned the home).
  5. No compare your budget and the Poverty Guideline.

How do they compare? Fill out your answer in the survey below (it’s anonymous).

I know, kind of a bizarre question. I’ve posted on this topic before, but I’m working on some more financial related posts/articles and wanted to do a quick reader survey. Thanks for humoring me. Definitely post comments if you have any on the topic.

YouTubesday: I Could Have Saved One More…

One of the most moving movie scenes ever, that has impacted my day to day life, is this scene from Schindler’s List.

The background (for the couple who haven’t scene it) is Schindler is a German businessman who has saves the lives of over a thousand Jews by employing them in his factories during the Holocaust. The clip is longer, but the first four minutes is the part I’d like you to watch.

Schindler, who did so much and is a hero to many, still has sincere regret about some of his lifestyle choices. Notice the Jews that come around him don’t discount his statements that he could have indeed saved more people by selling his lapel pin or car, but they don’t try and lay the guilt on either; they are grateful for those he did help.

We live in a world that is daily filled with tragic and unnecessary deaths. Thousands die from lack of access to food, basic health care, clean water, preventable diseases. These are deaths I can help prevent by choosing to put my resources towards providing for others needs, but so many times I don’t choose those things.

This is a reality that I struggle with often. I fear I might have the opportunity in this life or the next, to meet the child I sponsor and, like Schindler, I will breakdown and weep at how much more I could have done, how many more I could have helped, had I only been selfless enough to put their needs before mine.

That’s Not a Need… This is a Need.

(bonus points to whoever can tell me what movie quote the title is a rip-off from)

If you were tuned in yesterday, you learned that there is a big difference between NEEDS and WANTS.  I even gave a couple examples yesterday, but I’ll be giving a lot more today. I think it’s extremely important to discuss needs and wants, and to be honest about the difference. Far too often, I hear people use the phrase: “I really needed that…” or “You need to…” And usually they are referring to something that is most certainly not a need.  There are somethings that fall into a difficult to define category between needs and wants and those must be individually discerned, for the most part though, I think we can reach a general consensus about things that are needs, and things that are wants.

I would like for this to be a discussion, feel free to disagree with me, or add to these lists. I’ll make a brief list of things I think are Needs and then a list of things that are Wants, as well as brief explanations for each. These are not exhaustive lists.

(As I was writing this NEEDS list, I felt it need to be clarified what the end goal these ‘Needs’ are for is. I am not merely talking about the basics we need to stay physically alive, I’m trying to focus on what it would take to be a healthy functioning member of society)


  • Shelter- Some form of ‘home,’ though in some places, cultures, and climates a simple tent would suffice, I think it’s fair to expect to live in a four walled structure of some kind in this country.
  • Clothing- The amount is debatable, but one should expect to have proper clothing for their society and climate.
  • Food- You need food to survive, not gourmet, but healthy proper sustenance.
  • Utilities- I think it’s appropriate to have running water and electricity. How much electricity and water is debatable.
  • Transportation- Depending on your job/station in life one might ‘need’ a car, others might only need a bike, others simply public transit, but I do think some form of transportation is important.
  • Communication- Maybe a cellphone, land line, or internet access, but some form of communication with the rest of the world is acceptable.
  • Personal Hygiene- toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
  • Health Care- Medicine, doctor’s visits, etc.
  • Appropriate attire for your profession- For some it’s suits, others a uniform, others just t-shirt and jeans.
  • Child Care items- diapers, bottles, diaper cream, bed, etc.

My Needs categories don’t go much beyond that.  Anything you think needs to be added? Also, within these categories, I’m not saying you need to buy new items, nor are you free to buy the most expensive and fancy of anything that falls in these categories.

WANTS are things we don’t need to survive or function in society. This list could be miles long, but I’ll hit on ones that have come up in our budget choices or conversation with others.


  •  Fast Food, Junk Food, Eating Out
  • Cell Phone plans with lot’s of bonus features
  • Brand name clothes and new outfits
  • Brand new vehicles or houses
  • Technology Gadgets (mp3 players, laptop, DVDs, video games, car adapters, computer mouse, stereo, etc)
  • Books (you could use your library card), movies, entertainment, magazines, etc.

Anything else we should add to the list? Or, do you disagree with some of my category choices? I believe these are things we can discuss and probably come to a reasonable consensus, though on some we might not be able to figure out.

Financial Lesson #1: Discerning your Needs and Wants

In light of the interest in my previous post about budgets, I figured it would be good to resurrect a serious I started a while back on financial lessons. These aren’t complex or fool proof, but they are some steps on how I think about money. I think these will be my Wednesday posts for a while.Financial Lesson #1: Discerning your Needs and Wants

You must sit down (and if you are married, you both need to sit down) and draw up a list of your basic NEEDS (That you spend money on). To make this easy, do not start with what you see in and around your house, start with what you will be purchasing from this point forward. As an example person myself, here is an example.

Jack and Jill sit down and start their list of NEEDS. Immediately the basics come to mind: Food and Shelter. They break shelter down into clothes and rent (including heat, electricity etc). Now to get the money to purchase food they would need an income, thus their jobs. And to keep their job they each need transportation to work and occasionally work appropriate clothing. Jill thought back to here psychology days and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and suggested they did have some ‘emotional’ needs that might be hard to countify. In the end they came up with these needs: FOOD, SHELTER, TRANSPORTATION, MISC (Clothing, soap, etc) and EMOTIONAL.

But, that’s not the end of the lesson. Things get a little more complicated at this point. Does “Food” mean eating out three times a week and coffee at Bongo Java every morning? Are those NEEDS? You must discern on your own what part of your “food” is meeting your basic needs and what part is fulfilling your WANTS. The same goes for clothing. You might NEED button down shirts and dressy shoes for on the job, but you don’t NEED name brand clothing to wear out on the town. Getting to work is a Transportation NEED, driving across town to the outlet mall is not. Does that make some sense?

As you think through your needs, be sure to write down the things you’ve discerned are WANTS in another column (eating out, coffee, shopping trips, new sweaters).

Your Assignment for this week: Spend money as you normally have in the past, but be very concious of how much you are spending on Needs and how much on WANTS. Keep track of actual purchases if you’d like. And see if thinking through these lists actually changes what you spend money on through out the week.

Financial Straight Talk: Most of Us Have Money

The brief discussion last week about paying off a home mortgage quickly, has me realizing we need to talk a little bit about finances here. I’ve talked finances many times before and I think now would be a good time to start the discussion up again, both to articulate my views and to encourage discussion about them.

From what I can tell the readers of this blog come from a lot of backgrounds, stages of life, income levels, etc. So, there isn’t a great way to address all of our situations at once. That being the case, I’m just going to go ahead and use some numbers I found on wikipedia for average household incomes. We’ll use $46,326 as the average annual household income. I know many make less then this, and a few make more then this, but we’ll stick with it for the time being, because I think most reading this blog will be making at least that much as a household in the near future if they are not currently already.

I’m not sure how much of my own financial situation I’ll disclose on this blog yet, a discussion and decision still to be made, but I will tell you some of my thoughts on spending, resources, budgets, etc. And the first thing I want to address is this: Most of Us (‘us’ being those who have the technology access to be reading this blog) have money.

You might not have a lot of money coming in (income), or you might have a lot of it already tied up in debts, but you have money. According to Barna [via Boyd], Christians spend 97% of their income on themselves. And that’s not based on how much one makes. We tend to spend what we make, in other words, our cost of living usually matches our income (this is a problem). As a individual follower of Christ, or as a group, or as Christians in general, our ethic on finances and budget should not be to simply be smart spenders of our money, but to use our resources for good in the world. An ‘average’ church of say 10 family units (households from the previous statistic) has roughly $463,260 of income flowing through it. There are necessities, like feeding, clothing and sheltering those in the church, as well as some necessary expenses to remain employed at the jobs that create those incomes, but all in all, there could be a heck of a lot of money being used for good in the world.

The big question is: how much do we ‘need’ to live on. With all the potential for good with our resources, what do we ‘need’?