by Chris and Joanna Cummings
Hi there, we are the Cummingses and we are both in church ministry. Yes, you read that right. We were asked to share how we get the bills paid and live off of little income, and did we mention we both work in the local church? We are certainly not experts and it is definitely hard. But by remembering the importance of staying faithful to God’s call on our lives to ministry, we are encouraged and reminded of God’s great faithfulness to us.
First off, it needs to be said that it’s not easy. Living on a ministry salary is hard. It is doable, but it takes hard work and discipline.
Sit down regularly with your budget. Make changes and adjustments as needed whenever life changes. Stay on top of it each month. A mentor and pastor of ours taught us about the envelope system. It works by creating envelopes for your regular expenses such as weekly groceries, your tithe, and even personal spending. You place cash in these envelopes and only spend this cash. This helps us to visually see how much money is available. Then, we write checks or have automatic payments made for our regular bills or other large items that come along.
- Budget your regular tithe; it is just as important for those working in the church to tithe as it is for those who are members.
- Budget your bills out; figure out approximately what each bill is each month and add a bit more as a cushion.
- Budget groceries and any other regular expenses; these might be a bit trickier to put exact amounts on, which is why you need to revisit it every month.
- Budget the “other/unknown” expenses, because we all know those will come.
- Budget fun; that’s right, you must put “fun” in your budget or you won’t ever splurge. We have “Chris fun money” and “Joanna fun money” each month which is up to us to spend how we please. It’s not a lot, but it is fun!
Have a savings account, or multiple accounts, for separate saving items and emergencies. If you are trying to build up savings it will be helpful if you don’t have easy to access to that cash.
Pray about how you are called to give. We believe it is important to give to God’s Church not just through our vocation but also with our tithes and offerings. It is important for us all to remember that all we have is God’s and tithing is a great spiritual discipline to practice this remembrance. We are an example of faith in the way we share our money as well. We also don’t do an automatic tithe because it is more meaningful for us to physically offer it in worship.
In addition to having a savings account set up, you can save money here and there in a variety of ways. Use coupons. Clip them from the newspaper (find a friend or church member who is willing to share their paper with you). Also, budget in a certain amount, even if it is small, to put directly in saving when you get paid. It will be worth the sacrifice when you need it.
Save money and pinch pennies (literally save pennies) in every way you can think. We usually save spare change in a jar and cash it in to use it for extra spending money when we go on vacation or a getaway weekend. We got rid of cable and subscribe to Hulu Plus for just $8 a month. We were able to save $120 per month. It means we can’t watch our favorite shows live but let’s be honest: we never got to do that anyway since a majority of our evenings are spent at church or doing something ministry related. Netflix and Apple TV are other ways to get movies in an affordable way without having cable. You still need internet, but it lowers your monthly bill, and often you can connect your laptop, iPad, and even smart phone to your TV to watch. Get a library card–it’s free–and check out movies and CDs…for free. Most libraries have movies and music in their catalogs almost as soon as it’s publicly available. If you are throwing a party or gathering, budget your event and research the most affordable ways to create your gathering. Pinterest has great ideas for DIY celebrations and recipes. Cook at home and pack a lunch to save money instead of eating out. We have found this helps us be healthier, too.
Save money by doing it yourself! We purchased an “old school” push lawnmower that is gas- and electric-free. Yes, you push it and you never have to fill it with gas. We save $25 a week in the summer months. Learn some basic home maintenance to take care of basic repairs or ask a good friend or church member to help you with those things. Create art in order to affordably make your home a sanctuary away from the stresses of church ministry. Create gifts when they are needed by learning a craft or even learning to bake; again, a friend or church member can teach you; you can also check out YouTube for tutorials.
It’s important to still have date nights/fun adventures even if we don’t have a lot of money to spend. Get creative with what you do. Rent a $1 Redbox movie and make popcorn. Go camping for a weekend away (often only $10 a night for a camp site). Explore a state park (free). Play mini-golf (only a few dollars for a lot of fun). Do a puzzle together (free). Cook dinner together and have friends over and play games. If you want to eat out somewhere fun, look up coupons online. Take advantage of the awesome gift cards your church family gives you. We usually receive many of these at Christmas time and we spread out, using them for date nights all throughout the year. Oftentimes our date night is determined by what gift cards we have left in our stash. If you are in need of furniture or other items, check Craigslist for “free” listings which often turn out pretty amazing! Also, yard sales are a great way to find a cheap…anything. Going yard sale-ing is a fun Saturday morning date, too!
Saving money, staying on budget and making ends meet is going to be hard. However, by being resourceful and disciplined with how you use your money you can make it and have a lot of fun along the way!
Chris and Joanna Cummings are alumni of the Center for Youth Ministry Training who completed the program in May 2012 earning a Master of Arts in Religion. They serve together at Forest Hills United Methodist Church in Brentwood, Tenn. as the Minister of Youth and Young Adults (Chris) and the Minister of Spiritual Formation (Joanna).