March 31, 2017, 8:36 am
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Whenever you’re asked to make a budget for anything, the first thing that’s being tested is your Integrity. 

Are you going to ask for the maximum budget that you think you can get away with? Or are you going to ask for an amount that will reasonably meet the requirements of the project, event, or whatever it is you need a budget for? 

Some people – the dishonest ones – will ask for the maximum budget that they think they can get away with, even if it’s way over what they need. Dishonest people will also exhaust the budget and spend everything given to them – with no qualms
or efforts at all to save, or return whatever wasn’t spent. 

Honest people, on the other hand, are good stewards. They try their best to economize (without sacrificing quality), and even return whatever they’ve saved. They might end up very unpopular (to those who are dishonest), but they’ll raise the bar for
everyone. They’ll raise the bar for honesty and integrity every time they return the money they’ve saved! 

It’s common knowledge that in some corporate set-ups, people spend everything in their budget because no savings are credited to them – meaning, whatever they don’t spend this year won’t be carried over to their budget next year – so might as
well spend everything! Never mind if it’s atrocious, mindless spending. “Anyway, it’s in the budget, so let’s spend it all!” Foolish thinking. Ultimately it will backfire on you. 

This reminds me of a time when our division was given a budget for an out-of-town vacation. I was put in charge of handling the funds and making arrangements for the hotel and all. We were given a generous budget, much to our surprise! But I told
myself that without sacrificing the quality of our hotel, food, and sight seeing, I was going to try my best to spend the money wisely.

So I asked my secretary to scout for the best deals available in the city where we were headed – and she did find a promo in a pretty nice hotel, definitely above our group’s expectations. 

With such an auspicious start, I was all the more motivated to spend our budget wisely. So I arranged for a balanced mix of restaurants to go to: some of our dinners were fine dining, while some of our meals were in hole-in-the-wall restos that were
inexpensive but very masarap. Sometimes I brought them to semi-fine dining places like quaint cafés and interesting bistros, mainly for the ambience. When we were too tired, we just ate in the nice restaurant at the hotel where we stayed in – where,
I learned beforehand, that checked-in guests automatically had a 10% discount for food. (Before we booked our rooms, I asked the GM if hotel guests had any freebies or discounts. You can freely negotiate for these things -- but you have leverage
only if you do this BEFORE you make a deposit.) If we had a simple meal, I brought the group to a high-end place for coffee, tea and dessert so that most of our meals ended luxuriously – without paying an arm and a leg each time. 

To save on breakfasts, we had al fresco feasts that we bought the day before in the nearby supermarket: a fine variety of cheeses, jams, bread, cold cuts and fruits that were just as satisfying as a hotel buffet spread – at 1/3 the cost! Another time,
we just had fast food breakfast delivered – sausages, tocinos, fried eggs, muffins, croissants, breakfast burgers, fries, pancakes, and steaming cups of hot choco and coffee. Each meal ended with very convincing burps, deep sighs of contentment,
and “wow, sarap” resonated all around. Another thing: we made sure we didn’t over-order or over-eat.

Aside from being conscious about not over-eating or over-spending, I didn’t want to be saddled with toxic midnight trips to the ER just because someone was having what looked like a heart attack or a nasty acid reflux from overeating. Thankfully, no one even had to ask me for Tums, which I always have in my bag. I hardly have acid reflux, by the way – but I’ve been traumatized by them, from my over-eating days when I was younger, haha. 

End of story? We saved a lot! I returned a big sum to the office! They were flabbergasted, of course. I knocked their socks off, but they were undoubtedly happy! So was I. The following year, without my asking for it, our division was given a budget
for another out-of-town vacation, while other divisions had to beg and haggle for it. 

Lessons learned: God blesses honesty and good stewardship. As a lifestyle, my husband and I have taught our children that “Expensive doesn’t always mean better.” Or that just because there’s money, go ahead and spend it! Self-control means
we’ll have money saved for a rainy day. 

On that group vacation, we learned that we didn’t have to splurge to have fun. We didn’t have to fabricate ways to “charge everything that’s chargeable” to the office but we got to do everything we wanted to! We didn’t have to be extravagant and
spend everything -- just because it was within the budget. 

For me, spending in excess is crass, unwise, and hedonistic. Maybe it’s because I have a Chinese mom. As a rule, she taught me that it was stupid to spend more than one had to. She wasn’t stingy at all – she had an eye for “good quality that
costs more.” She knew how  to spend for herself and for people she loved. Neither did she spend other people’s money carelessly, or on a whim. And she certainly slept soundly at night because she didn’t have any debts! By God’s grace, my husband and I don’t have any debts, and didn’t have any debts, for most of our lives. 

Last thoughts: Making a budget is a matter of conscience. A matter of integrity. It clearly draws the line between someone who’s out to take advantage, and someone who’s not. 

Tell me. Will you help your boss – your organization, your family, your team – to save, by economizing and spending  wisely? Or will you just spend all the money that’s there because, well... it’s there!

We may not be able to find the best deals all the time. We might not be able to save in the best way possible every time. But at least, if we try to spend reasonably and wisely, we’ll have a clear conscience – because we didn’t take advantage of, or
exploit anyone!
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