Budget. I’m just going to come out and say it. The actual word “budget” used to make my skin crawl…pretty much the feeling you might get when you scratch a chalkboard. I’m a girl that doesn’t like structure, schedules or…budgets. I like to wing things.
But let’s be honest:
Living paycheck to paycheck is stressful. It just is. I always thought that until we made more money that we would just be living paycheck to paycheck and we certainly didn’t have any big dreams for our family other than paying all of the bills on time.
That is, until we went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, things changed. For starters, it was pretty obvious in the first class that my husband is the Nerd (likes structure, rule follower, etc.) and I was the Free Spirit (budgets make me squirm in my seat like a kindergartener with ants in their pants and I can’t stand rules) To be honest, I know how to make a budget now and I appreciate what having a budget did for our family, but here is why I really fell in love with budgeting.
My husband and I started dreaming together, really dreaming, about the future, what we wanted but never thought we could have. We realized that if we simply took control of our money and told it where to go, we actually were able to accomplish more things.
Here are a few things that really changed things for us as we started taking control of our finances:
Log onto your online banking (if you have multiple accounts…do it for all accounts) and print off all transaction history for the previous 30 day month. Get a pack of different colored highlighters and go through and highlight in categories. Red for all eating out transactions, blue for all grocery store transactions, green for all gas charges, yellow for entertainment, purple for misc etc etc until every transaction is highlighted in a category and then add up each category. We were appalled. Appalled at the amount we spent each month on eating out and going to the grocery store 5 million times a week. Make cuts where you need to, but realize it’s a starting point for you to actually see where your money is going!
Be ready to make initial sacrifices. Unsubscribe to any online shopping emails or notifications. Just don’t even walk into Hobby Lobby or any store where compulsive buying happens. Pack snacks instead of running through the drive-thru and pack your lunches for work. Never buy anything when stopping to get gas. Just get gas and get out! Everything is priced up in a convenience store.
Make a Menu
Make out weekly menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner and then make a grocery list off of the menus. Go grocery shopping once a week and buy only what is on the list. You’ll also notice that ingredients to cook with are much cheaper than already made snacks, etc. Only go to the store during the week if you go through a lot of milk, eggs or bread which need to be bought fresh.
Give it 90 Days
You can do anything for 90 days. Commit to changing a few small things in the way you handle your money for 90 days. The first 30 day budget is going to be the most stressful as you figure out exactly how much bills are, where your money is coming from and exactly how to control it. The second 30 days is easier and the final 30 days is where it gets fun when you realize that you can actually do more of what you want when you tell your money where to go.
Know Your Why
Being on a budget doesn’t mean you’re broke, it means you are smart and you have bigger dreams. This was hard for me. It was embarrassing at first when I had to tell my coworkers that I wasn’t eating out for lunch anymore because it wasn’t in the budget or when I couldn’t go get my nails done that month because I had already spent my “misc” money. Eight months after we started budgeting, we had saved enough to buy a house. Buy a house! I’m now entirely confident that not eating out as much was way worth it.
So I challenge you today to dream bigger than paycheck to paycheck. Do you want to pay for Disney in cash? Do you want to pay off credit cards? Do you want a new car? Do you want to buy a house? Sit down, decide why you are going to budget and then do it….and enjoy the freedom it brings!
I would love to hear any tips you have on how to dream and live big on a budget!