Personal Stewardship

It’s that magical time of year- resolution season!

My birthday is New Year’s Eve, which makes me a Capricorn. What are we known for? Planning! Goal setting! And moving with goat-like sturdy stubbornness towards achieving our goals.

As such, this makes New Year’s Eve is doubly special for me — celebrate my birthday AND I get to compile of new goals and projects to tackle?! Happy day!

I’ve taken the guidance of our January Soul Matters packet, and I’ve picked a word for the year — to reflect upon, to look to for guidance, and to help keep me “open to new possibilities.” My word isn’t very shiny, but it really shouted “2019” to me: Discipline. What does that mean? It means letting go of disorganization, distractions, and stagnation, while inviting in practice, focus, and personal growth. It means slowing, honing, deepening. Hopefully, it will mean accomplishment.

For a lot of people, their New Year resolutions involve money, and I have a few of those as well — both tied to my budget.

The point of a budget is to get a handle on your finances, be honest with yourself on your spending, and to use it as a tool for goal setting.

I’ve also been able to use it to see what trips me up with my spending. When I evaluated what went awry with my spending last year, one area that surprised me was the “emergency” donations:

  • GoFundMe’s for friends in accidents,
  • or for people affected by the wild fires;
  • a moving “Change for Change” recipient;
  • sponsoring my nieces in a fundraising run.

I would call this Emotional Spending, and in hindsight, its easy to see how it led me astray from my financial goals: I can, in each moment, justify to myself that giving to others trumps my budget; that it is righteous and necessary to disregard my plans in order to help someone’s plight.

But that mentality, if left unchecked, can lead to disaster. Just like you need check in with yourself and to practice self-care in order to best give care to those around you, you need to be accountable to yourself and your finances in order to best be able to responsibly keep giving to others in the long term.

Armed with this insight, this year I am planning for those moments, and I’ve built in a nonspecific “donation” fund into my budget that I save a small amount towards each month — separate from the other planned monthly donations I already make. This way, I can best be responsible to myself and my goals, as well as be able to help others as each need arises.

Another one of my personal goals is, over time, to get my church pledge to 10% of my annual income. I can’t do that this year, but by looking at my budget, I can project out when that might be possible, and I can responsibly incrementally increase my pledge each year.

By having a budget, I can make sure my money is being spent on what is important to me, that which I want to actively support, and that which reflects my values.

Haven’t made a budget before? Here is a quick guide to get you started:

And a bonus budgeting step:

Educate and empower yourself by increasing your financial literacy! Most of the beneficial financial instruments, tax advantaged accounts, and savings options have historically felt unavailable to women, people of color, and the poor. Many of the “financial self-help” articles read like they only apply to the top 1% of earners.

Can’t save 15% of your income? You aren’t alone — 57% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 expense. So you can’t start with 15%? Then start with $5.00.

What are your 2019 resolutions?


Tori Brewster, Stewardship Team