Set your priorities

A pastor and his family adopts Biblical principles to frugal living
By Heinz Bulos

Who says the Bible isn’t practical? Just in case you didn’t know, “money” is mentioned more times than any other topic in Scriptures. Joey Batungbacal, 53, a pastor at a local Christian church, knows this. “The first I’ve learned,” he says, “is that God owns everything and we’re just stewards of His blessings. If He can trust you with little things, then He can trust you bigger things.”

To put this principle to work, Pastor Joey applies prioritization. For this family of five, that means God first, spouse second, children third. They tithe 10% of their income to the church, a practice that dates back to the Old Testament. He explains, “Give God what is due Him. Whatever comes in goes back to Him. This is a given,” adding that their experience proves that if they give more, more blessings come. He cautions however that people should not take this mean that they’re free to do whatever they please with their lives.

When it comes to family matters, Pastor Joey consults with his wife for financial decisions. They work together on a monthly budget, which reflect the priorities they’ve set. They also set aside 10% to 15% of their income for savings, particularly for family vacations. He points to a verse in Proverbs 6 about the ant which stored food little by little. In his case, he was able to save up for educational plans for his kids, two of whom are already working professionals, as well as life insurance and estate protection.

They also use the envelope system, wherein during payroll, they insert cash in envelopes labeled according to their budget’s expense categories. “What’s left is our personal baon for 15 days,” he says. This way, he explains, they don’t fall for the idea of false prosperity, thinking they have so much cash to spend.

They also make sure to differentiate wants from needs, asking themselves if what they want to spend on is really needed. Pastor Joey notes, “Even if it’s a need, but the money’s not there yet, we don’t borrow. That’s a signal it’s not the right time to buy.”  Instead they save up for it. And often, he adds, after waiting, they realize they don’t really need it after all. “We are careful about impulse buying,” he shares.

Food takes up much of their budget, so his family makes sure they have this cost under control. For instance, their house help buys food at the wet market, which Pastor Joey notes is 30% cheaper than at the supermarket. Before they troop to the mall, they eat a heavy meal and return home before dinner. They also gave up on things they can do without, like soft drinks, which he admits they used to consume morning, noon, and night. “The little things add up,” he shares.

Based on experience, Pastor Joey also advises against buying second-hand cars because you’ll “inherit the headaches of the first owner.” So he always buys brand new, since he can break it in properly and extend its useful life. It’s also important to follow the car’s regular maintenance schedule, he says, since that prevents costly repairs and results in a higher resale value. “And develop good driving habits,” he adds.

For a family who loves to travel, Pastor Joey is as meticulous about preparing the travel budget, saying, “We’ll go only when we can meet the budget.” So they wait for special packaged tours and “buy 1-take 1” promos, usually during the off-peak rainy season of June to September, and they plan and reserve in advance.

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