Lesson 21: Managing Family Finances

The Latter-day Saint Woman: Basic Manual for Women, Part A, (2000), 152–59


The purpose of this lesson is to help us learn how to manage our finances.

Using Our Resources Wisely

“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 24:1).

President Brigham Young said that the Lord “has handed over a goodly portion to this people. … But it is not ours, and all we have to do is to try and find out what the Lord wants us to do with what we have in our possession, and then go and do it.” Brigham Young also said that we can do this “through our faith, patience and industry.” (See Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 305.)

  • What has the Lord given us to help provide for our families? Think about how your family’s income depends on what the Lord provided when He created this earth.

The Lord has given us the fulness of the earth. Mortals have created money to pay each other for things that come from the earth. “Money can be anything that people agree to accept in exchange for the things they sell or the work they do” (World Book Encyclopedia [1977], 13:588). Money is a measure of value. All cultures have some form of money. We should learn how to use money as the Lord wants us to.

Planning How to Use Income

Money can be a tool for doing good. The Lord intends for us to do well. He intends for us to care for our families and contribute to His work on earth. When we manage our money wisely, using it as He intends, He blesses us to meet our own needs. We should learn how to manage money. We should prepare ourselves to handle money wisely. The way we use money shows our attitude toward others, toward the Lord and His work, and toward ourselves. It shows whether we are generous or selfish, thrifty or wasteful.

  • Read Luke 14:28–30. What must we do before we use any of our money?

  • Display visual 21-a, “A family discussing a budget.”

As families, we need to plan together how to spend our money. This plan is called a budget. It gives us control. It keeps us from using our money for things that are not important. Every successful business operates on a budget. Even the Church uses a budget.

Every family will have a different budget. What is important to one family may be less important to another. We need to decide what is most important to our family. We need to set financial goals for ourselves. We can do this at home in a family council.

One of the great commandments we have been given is the law of tithing. As Latter-day Saints, we should consider this the first item in our budgets. The Lord will bless us if we keep this commandment. When we consistently pay one-tenth of our increase for tithing, we have the assurance that the Lord in His own way will bless us. (See Malachi 3:10; Matthew 6:33.) It is comforting to know that the Lord is concerned about our temporal welfare. He will bless us if we act honestly and show we are willing to put the kingdom of God first.

Budgeting

The first step in setting up a budget is to add up all sources of income. We need to find out the total income we have each month.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Total Income

We then take 10 percent of that total income for our tithing.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Tithing—10 percent

The next step is to set aside money for Church contributions, including fast offerings and missionary funds.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Church Contributions

After we have paid our tithing and other Church obligations, we should set aside money for savings. Church leaders suggest we try to save as much money each month as we pay in tithing—in other words, 10 percent. (See Relief Society Courses of Study, 1977–78 [1977], 56–57.) If we are having money problems, we may reduce our savings, but we need to save a little every month. Our savings are used for unexpected emergencies, such as unemployment, illness, or accident. We also need to save for missions, education, trips to the temple, and other long-range goals.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Savings

If we are not able to save much money, we can practice being thrifty in our homes. We can rely on our own talents and abilities. This will help us save a great deal of money. We can garden and grow some of our own foods. We can recycle old clothes by cutting them up and sewing them together in a new style. We can make new furniture from old and make new toys from crates, logs, lumber scraps, scraps of cloth, and buttons. By reusing clothing and rebuilding furniture, we can provide many things for ourselves.

  • Display visual 21-c, “Homemade furniture can be constructed at little cost.”

  • Have the sisters show the items they brought. Ask them to tell how they grew or made them.

The next items in our budget should be the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, and housing. The amount we spend will vary, depending on how thrifty we are and how large our families are. Families that buy commercially prepared and packaged foods spend more than those who cook from basic ingredients or who eat food from their own gardens. Careful shopping means watching the sales, buying only needed items, and avoiding luxuries. We can also save money by remaking old clothing or buying cloth on sale to make clothing rather than buying ready-made clothes. Some families save money by living in inexpensive homes.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Food, Clothing, and Housing

Families also need to budget for items in many other areas. One of these is medical expenses. Some of the other common ones are transportation, heat, power, and water. These latter items are our utilities.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Medical Expenses, Transportation, and Utilities

With the money that is left over we can budget for those things we would like to have but really do not need. They might be family vacations, gifts, movies, and so on.

  • Write on the chalkboard: Other

If no money is left over, or if there is not enough for all the necessities, we will have to change the amount of money we have planned in various areas. Once we decide how to spend our money, we must follow our budget. After we have spent the money allowed in an area, we should spend no more money on it until we receive our next income. If we face an emergency, we can borrow from the least important area of our budget.

The following month we may decide to budget differently than we did the first month. We should have a budget that fits our family’s needs. As we work with a budget, we will learn its value in helping us use our money wisely.

  • What blessings come from following our budget plans? Why is it important to teach our children how to manage income? How can we do this?

Avoiding Debt

We have also been counseled by President J. Reuben Clark Jr.:

“Let us avoid debt as we would avoid a plague; where we are now in debt let us get out of debt; if not today, then tomorrow.

“Let us straitly and strictly live within our incomes, and save a little” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1937, 26).

We can reduce our debt by making it part of our budget. We may have to put less money in other areas, but our prophets have told us to avoid debt. Except for purchasing a home or other very important items, we should avoid buying on credit. If we owe money, we should pay it as promised, being honest in all our dealings with others.

President N. Eldon Tanner warned us of one of the great dangers of debt: “[People] can’t enjoy living if they are so badly in debt that they don’t know how they are going to carry on. This causes friction in the family, it causes worry and concern, and sometimes divorces, just because people don’t live within their means” (address at Welfare Agriculture Meeting, 9 Apr. 1966; quoted in Relief Society Courses of Study, 1977–78, [1977], 81).

  • What blessings come from being out of debt?

Conclusion

The Lord has given us this earth so we can provide for ourselves. He intends for us to prosper. If we manage our money wisely and put the kingdom of God first in our lives, the Lord will bless us financially and spiritually.

Challenge

Set aside time to budget your money for the coming month. Fathers and mothers could discuss a budget with their children during a family council. If you have debts, decide how to reduce them. Try to save money each month.

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Ask three or four sisters to bring one item from home production, such as a home-grown fruit or vegetable, a handmade article of clothing, or a handmade toy or home decoration.

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.