How To Fit Tithing Into Your Other Financial Priorities

August 28, 2018

There are a number of opinions out there on whether people who are paying off debt and/or under-saving should tithe (the practice by some religions of giving 10% of your income to the church) before paying off debt and saving. I’ve spoken with many people who struggle with this answer. Often, they have already gotten into a bit of debt and aren’t really sure how much they should or can afford to tithe.

I won’t get into whether or not you should tithe — to me that’s a decision everyone has to make for themselves and I’m not trying to make any religious statements here. But for those who decide that it is an important priority, there are ways to do it while also keeping your finances in order. The last time I was asked this question by someone struggling with making it all work, here is how I framed my guidance:

Think of it this way:

1) Commit to the idea fully – If tithing is a priority for you, write out your plan to make it happen. Be specific with how much you will give and how often.

2) Write it in to your budget – Once you know how much you are going to tithe, subtract that amount from your monthly income and create a budget to live off what’s left. It’s really the only way to make it work.

We mean well, but often, we make the decision to buy the car, purchase the home, etc., BEFORE considering how much we can afford after tithing. Things could be smoother if we account for the tithe and then decide how much of a car or mortgage payment we can afford.

3) Cut back on other spending  – If you find you can’t tithe at the level you wish, look for areas in your budget where you might be able to cut back in order to make it work. Think about your own personal priorities.

4) Find ways to increase your income – Explore opportunities to earn additional cash to help pay down your debt or save by working more hours, having a second job, etc.

5) Don’t tithe on credit – If you feel led to give more, go back to step two and make room in your budget to give more instead of putting your tithe on a credit card. Tithing on credit will add to the time it will take you to pay off your debt.

6) Make sure you’re getting your full tax deduction – If you itemize your taxes, you may be able to claim a deduction for the amount (or a portion thereof) of the tithe you give.

Remember that you are in control

You don’t have to feel guilty about tithing instead of paying off debt or saving. You just have to find a way to make it all work. If it’s important to you, add tithing as a line item in your budget and make your financial decisions based off what is remaining.

Recognize that tithing while in debt could take you longer to pay off your debt or save. You have the control to work more hours, cut back on spending elsewhere, or slowly increase your level of giving overtime as you free up more cash and start giving the amount you ultimately want to give.