Budgeting 101

Think back to your time in grade school and even college. Do you remember hearing a lot about time management or budgeting your time? How often did you hear about personal finance and budgeting your money? Even if you completed a plethora of math or economics courses in high school, you may not have had the opportunity to work with individual budgets and your own personal numbers.

While budgeting your time is essential to surviving seminary (and life beyond), learning how to effectively budget your money is essential to completing seminary, tracking your habits, paying off debts, and planning for the future.

The Bible talks a lot about money, but one of the most popular passages concerning money comes from Luke 16:13:

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Although we know God comes first, it would be naive to think that money doesn’t hold significant power in our society. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress or excitement that money can create. Without fully realizing, we wind up devoting our time and attention to money (worrying about not having enough or obsessing over having more). Money can become and idol and, as Luke warns, this creates a dangerous situation for our faith.


Budgeting boils down to one main principle: spend less than you earn.

Easier said than done.

Thankfully, there are many blogs and websites that provide easy-to-use templates and programs to get your finances in order (you can find a list on our Resources page). Need some advice from a real person? Read Pastor McLeod’s reflection on budgets and answer the questions for reflection at the end. Whether you’re budgeting for yourself or your church, you need to have your priorities in order.

Additionally, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas has produced a simple online resource to help students learn how to manage and build their wealth. Chapter Two focuses on budgeting and includes multiple printables you may choose to use or download.

We’ve also created three downloadable documents to help you get control over your finances.

  1. A customizable excel expense doc can be downloaded here to keep track of your expenses and income month by month. This document helps you visualize how much money leaves each of your accounts and whether your income results in a positive or negative balance. You can track changes over the course of the year and recognize patterns of spending. Watch for excessive credit card charges and racking up a high food total for purchases made outside of grocery trips (i.e. Grabbing a coffee on your way to class, fast food trips, drinks with friends, etc.). This is a good beginning point to start managing your money flow.
  2. A printable PDF monthly budget can be downloaded here to help you set a budget for the month and compare against actual results. Some sites recommend printing a new budget sheet each month and continually revising and revisiting your expenses. Use it as you see fit! It also includes Dave Ramsey’s suggested budgeting percentages so you can compare your expenses to the suggested monthly percentage. This is only a guideline, but it may help you re-evaluate how you divide your available income.
  3. An annual budgeting excel worksheet can be downloaded here. This will be useful if you’re interested in understanding all your sources of income and available resources for financing your time in seminary. This worksheet will also help you determine the amount of financial need you require to meet your living expenses.

Find the budgeting system that makes sense for you and keeps you on track. There are a lot of options out there about how to break up your money; you can follow Dave Ramsey’s budgeting percentages for each section of your planning, or you can choose something more streamlined like the 50:20:30 rule to break your budgeting into three chunks. Check out the Resources page for some options!

Despite the fact that “budgeting” always seems to be about cutting out anything fun or enjoyable for everything boring and reliable, it’s important to budget for self-care too! Give yourself an allowance and stick to it. Although you may be working with a tight budget, you still deserve to treat yo’ self [1], because seminary is stressful and time consuming and you can’t do your best work if you never take a break to recharge. If you budget for these occasions, you won’t feel guilty about spending the money (guilt isn’t good for self-care).


Unsure how much you’ll need to borrow in loans to finance seminary? Head over to Financing Seminary for more information.


[1] For those who are unfamiliar with this phrase, it was coined on the October 3, 2011 episode of the popular TV show, Parks & Recreation.