I received a reader question this week that I thought I would share with everyone for a few reasons: to answer the reader’s question, hopefully help others, and extend the conversation. You see, not all financial questions are about pure number crunching, and this is one of those occasions. Please feel free to add to the discussion after you read the article.
I am going to have a major medical procedure in 12-18 months, which will require us to move to a major metropolitan area for several months. Apartments there cost about $2,300 per month, which doesn’t leave us much time to save up for this expense. Would you save your tithing money to pay for the apartment, or still give your tithe?
We are trying to follow Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps and we are still in the debt snowball stage. I really appreciate your response.
Should You Always Tithe?
I am sorry to hear about your upcoming medical procedure and I wish you the best with this procedure and your health. While it is unfortunate that you will have to undergo a major medical procedure, you have been blessed with the knowledge of what the procedure is and roughly when it will happen. That does not make it any easier to have to go through, but it does give you a small advantage in being able to plan for it.
Now let’s talk a little bit about the financial planning aspect of your situation.
A brief introduction to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps
For those who aren’t familiar with Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, it is part of his Financial Peace University methodology. To follow the Baby Steps, one must first make a conscious decision to get out of debt, then follow his 7 step process:
- Build a $1,000 emergency fund
- Pay off all debt using a debt snowball
- Save 3 to 6 months living expenses (fully funded emergency fund)
- Invest 15% of household income in retirement funds
- Create a college fund for your children
- Pay your home off early
- Build wealth and give.
The last few steps can be done simultaneously. Dave Ramsey’s teachings are steeped in Christianity, and one of the things he advocates is tithing 10% of your income to God.
An important thing to remember is that while Ramsey’s Baby Steps are an effective way to get out of debt and build wealth, they are also only a guide and it can be modified to meet your needs.
Trying to save and pay down debt at the same time
Your situation is a little complex because you are dealing with the uncertainty of your medical condition while trying to save and pay down debt at the same time.
Saving and paying down debt at the same time can be done, but it becomes more difficult when you need to save a lot of money in a short time period, such as trying to save money to pay for an expensive apartment in a large city, and preparing to undergo an expensive medical procedure.
There is a lot we don’t know about your financial situation, but these are a few general tips that can help you or others in a similar situation.
Create a budget: One of the first things you should do if you haven’t already, is to create a zero based budget. This way you will know where your current expenses are, how much income you have, and where your money is going. Once your budget is in place, you should use that as a tool to help you spend less and look for ways to earn more money, both now and in the future.
Spend less: Go through your budget and find ways you can cut expenses. Also consider the apartment you are saving for. $2,300 per month for an apartment is very high, even for some major cities. I used to live in Houston, and nice apartments on the outskirts of town could be had for half that price. It pays to shop around.
Earn More: Finding new sources of income is another way you can help your debt snowball or help increase your savings. It doesn’t even need to be a lot of extra money – every little bit can make a difference. You can earn extra money by selling unneeded items, working part time, doing freelance work or consulting, completing online surveys, etc. Of course, I make it sound easy. It isn’t necessarily easy, but it doesn’t need to be hard either.
Consider scaling back on your debt snowball. Dave Ramsey advocates using a debt snowball to pay off debt because it is a quick and effective way to reduce debt and make tangible victories. But Ramsey also doesn’t recommend using a debt snowball until you are current with your bills and have a basic emergency fund in place.
If you continue your debt snowball you will make good progress on your debt, but you may be setting yourself up for future debt if you won’t be able to pay for the apartment. If you decrease your debt snowball and only pay the minimums on your monthly debts, you can save the difference for an apartment fund so you don’t need to take on additional debt when you move to the city for the medical procedure. I would only look at this as a short term solution, but one that may be necessary to avoid future debt.
Reach out to your church. Someone in your church group may be able to put you in touch with someone in the city where you will have your medical procedure. They may know of more affordable houses or apartments for rent, or there may even be a family in the area willing to host you for a few months. While it may seem awkward to inquire about something like this, these kinds of arrangements are not unheard of in church communities.
Should you tithe when times are hard?
Tithing is a very personal thing, and it is not something that I, or anyone else, can tell you to do. My advice is to understand your beliefs on tithing, talk this over with your family and religious leader, pray about it, and make the decision you feel is the right decision to make. In the end, the decision is between you and God.
Of course I can’t send you on your way after only telling you to talk it over and pray about it. So I researched the web and talked to some of my friends and found several other articles about tithing, many of which you may find helpful.
Can you stop tithing when money is tight? Believing in God means you believe you will be provided for no matter what the circumstances. My friend Lynnae writes about Unemployment, Tithing, and God’s Provision. Her story is an anecdote about how God works in unexpected ways.
FMF answers some questions about tithing, and mentions you should continue to tithe even during tough economic times. He continues with more posts about tithing in the 21st century, and and more thoughts on tithing.
More articles on tithing
Steve Pavlina writes about tithing from an emotional standpoint and discusses some of the many benefits one can receive from tithing. He goes on to mention that beyond tithing, there are non-financial ways to give, including offering your time, talents, and other gifts. I encourage you to read this article.
Finally, as you mentioned Dave Ramsey, I thought it appropriate to add his words to the mix. Here is what Dave Ramsey has to say about pausing tithes (this is only a small quote, I encourage you to read the rest):
The Bible does not mention anything about “pausing” tithing. Neither does it say that we will go to Hell if we do not tithe. The tithe, which is a scriptural mandate, was not instituted for God’s benefit because He already has all the money He needs. He does not need our money.
…Read the Bible and take from it what you will, and if you tithe, do it out of love for God, not guilt.
This is your decision
This is a decision between you and God and no matter which decision you make, I don’t think anyone will judge you. I pray you find peace and health in the coming months.
Related Post: How We Manage Our Money on a Daily Basis
Please feel free to continue this discussion in a respectful manner in the comments section.