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Have you ever just sat back and looked at your finances?
I never used too. Honestly, I didn’t balance my checkbook, I didn’t plan out bills or what was going to be leaving our account each month, and I never tracked expenses. I’ve tried in the past to get a handle on these things, but I have always failed. I was taught as long as you had a job, money in your account, and paid your bills on time the rest wasn’t that important. While to a point I have found that it can be true I have also found that I was never taught the finer aspects of budgeting. Boy are those needed in life!
For me, budgeting began to stick once we found out we were pregnant. We aren’t going into parenthood blindly. We track expenses and bills that will happen with a child. We are preparing already for the change in groceries and doctor bills. Since I do not have a conventional job we have lucked out on having to prepare for child care. Even though this has made it a bit more difficult preparing for a child on one income but we know it can be done. We just have to commit and stay focused.
I’m not saying that this is a full proof way to budget and get your finances in order but I do pay attention to those who have. Years ago, at church, I was introduced to Dave Ramsey’s teachings. I liked what he had to say about budgeting, but thought it was for other people, not my husband or myself. We dealt with crippling (for us) debt for years, not making enough money to pay for bills, spending what was in the account even if that money should have gone elsewhere. Our finances were bleak, trying to keep up with the “Jones’s”. We are attempting Total Money Makeover Status with Dave Ramsey’s teaching’s, only time will tell how well we do. If you’d like to read his book and see for yourself all the great advice just click on the picture below!
“When we first found out we were pregnant, was when I knew I needed to change my habits. So I spent the little bit of money it costs for the book and committed to one chapter a day. I ended up reading to my husband half the book. It’s such an easy and ‘well duh’ set of advice, but I never implemented it before. We are now. We are looking to have all debt gone in about a year and a half, and having our first baby!” -Maria (The Porcelain Fox)
For those of you who just want some pointers, here’s what we do, have done, or are interested in trying…( Not all of these are in the book)
First off check out the past 3 months of bank statements. Check the Credit versus Debit section. Our bank does this first on our statement. I can’t speak for any other banks. If you are spending more than came in for a month check out all the debits listed out on the following pages. What can you say no to in the future? Eating out all the time and buying groceries? Find which you can cut back on. If you eat out a majority of your time you probably don’t need to be buying a lot of groceries for your household. Maybe you are spending it at the movies? That one should be easy. Stop. It’s a status thing and something that isn’t going to kill you to hold off on. Maybe you have a subscription to Hulu, Netflix, HBO, Stars, YouTube, and you have cable. Figure out what will be cheaper, the individual services and apps, or cable. Pick and make it happen. Many times we have found that the cable company will work to keep you. Although I have found it has been harder since streaming became so popular. There are so many ways to just look and see if you can cut back. We set my husband on a spending limit for each day at lunch. When he told people he had to be on a Wendy’s budget they would offer to pay for his lunch or just not invite him to an expensive place. It’s worked out great and he has found that it hasn’t hurt him in the company as he thought it might.
Two… Another big easy one! Set shopping days for the month! Get a pad of paper and stick it to your refrigerator. As you run out or low on something add it to the list. We grocery shop every two weeks for my husband and myself. We know this is going to change once the baby is here and consuming more. So if you need to go weekly make a list all week long. Walk through your house before you head to the store or before you go online and order your groceries, (I do this all the time, another way I am prepping for baby). I use Walmart for this service and they offer several hours after to add more items in case you miss anything. I’ll still randomly have to make an emergency run every once and a while but that has been cut back dramatically. Imagine the amount of gas saved. Imagine the hours saved by only making a single trip.
The online services are the way to go. Where I live I drive to Walmart and they come out to my car and load it. They let me know if anything is out of stock or if they substituted anything and I sign off on any changes and they load my car. If they have any out of stock I drive across the street to Target who typically has whatever Walmart doesn’t 90% of the time. Sure I’ll have to go in at that point but the bonus for me they have a Starbucks!
*It’s a small splurge, but in budgeting, you need to make sure you aren’t making yourself and family beyond miserable just make room in the budget for these expenses.
A great third tip… Invest your time, not money. Really this one sounds weird but its really cool. Type into Google, free events near me. In Pinterest type in the search bar, free date ideas. Even if you do one thing free and maybe dinner you are still saving on something you would be spending money on. Instead of going out this year on our anniversary to dinner and a movie, I made my husband one of his favorite meals and we borrowed a movie from a friend that we were wanting to see. For Valentines Day I told my husband all I wanted was a pizza and Netflix with him the whole night. Really most of my best dates with my husband are the ones where we haven’t spent money but instead spent time together. Sure a fancy restaurant can be romantic, but you know what is more intimate, cooking for each other, being the only two people in the room (aka our home), putting time and energy into coming up with a great outside of the home option for a date. Dinner and a movie are a go-to sadly. Even me, who loves movies and books and tv, thinks that yeah a dinner and movie is a nice change but it is so impersonal. Challenge yourself to come up with something that costs nothing! Picnic in the park? Set up a home massage given by you to your S.O.? Run out and slow dance in the rain? Maybe it is just turning off your phone? This is all free and you are investing in time spent making memories and connecting. Your wallet benefits, and so does your relationship! Come on, you will thank me.
I have tied in relationships with the last tip but it is a huge benefit of budgeting. Budgeting forces you to communicate. If you aren’t honest about your spending when you begin to budget it will fail. Both of you need to be on the same page and working together toward the same goals.
If you are single reading this look at the events! All of the adventures you can have for free! Maybe get a group of friends to go with you. I come from a town where it is known for the Pumpkin Show, The Greatest Free Show on Earth! Do you know how many towns all around you have festivals throughout the year? Natural Parks with hidden gems that are completely free (aside from gas). Options are endless! Save the money for a big trip, or to pay off debt, and do something free.
I’m a habitual spender. I’ll shop around for a deal. All the little spending though adds up! Adds up big time! My biggest challenge has been training my brain to not associate happiness to deal finding. We recently spent an evening with some great friends of ours. They are completely different than us in so many ways but still very dear. We haven’t spent a lot of time with them over the past few months because of scheduling, so when we went over for a cookout they pointed out the new purchases in their life. I surprised myself with how I didn’t immediately begin to think how any of these items could ‘enhance’ our own lives. The point I’m trying to convey here is that over the past 7 months my mind is finally changing. I’m not viewing purchases as a neat way to improve our life or standing in the world, I’m viewing it as an excess which makes me so happy. I still have a long way to go but we must celebrate the small victories!
So even if you aren’t all gung-ho on the idea of budgeting but want to cut back, I hope these tips can help you out. Even coming from a habitual spender they do help. Let me know your best technique to budget! Comment below or email me!