You know it’s time to get the budget in order. You already know it.
You see the credit card bill coming in, and kids’s expenses, and things are piling up. Oh yeah, and in a couple of weeks the end of the year holiday season is coming and it’s going to cost money this year. Hopefully not as much as last year. You may still be paying that off of your credit card.
It can seem like too much. So right now, I want to give you 5 things that will set you up for success in your family finances.
These will not decree your financial independence for you. But they will give you the tools to set yourself up on a plan that works for you. Not what your sister does, not what works for your in-laws, what you can do. So, sit down, take a few minutes for yourself and do it.
Once you have the clear path, you can follow the steps to success. In fact, you will.
Declare one notebook the budget book.
What? I thought this was about the budget!
I know. I can hear you saying this.
Hear me, my friend. You are not organized. You, like most of Americans, don’t know how much you’re spending. It’s time to find the answers.
This notebook is where all the ideas, notes, and numbers are going. Now, don’t go spend more of your cash to get a cute, fancy one with a unicorn on the front. Unicorns are so 1995. Those 17-cent-composition-books will do just fine, thank you very much. This is you will write down every bill that you owe, where you will start crossing off the payments as they are taken care of, and where you will work with your partner to make plan your strategic attack against the finances. Geddit, girl. I’m serious about this. One place to write it all down.
Give every dollar a name.
That’s all the budget is. Once I began to understand what Dave Ramsey was talking about when he said, “Give every dollar a name,” I got lit up. Seriously, now I could see that we weren’t just floating along the river of life in our little canoe hoping to make it, we were actually constructing the river. Do you realize what that means? Do you realize that power that gives us?
We could build dams on one side, paying off all of these teeny, tiny debts like leaks in the river. You build those dams by using the extra couple of bucks here and a couple of bucks there to patch the hole. Know what happens? The flow of the river gets stronger. The power of your income gets increasingly stronger as you are taking care of these little things.
Here’s what we do. We name them. Each dollar has hole to fill, an assignment to complete.
My husband has been getting paid on Mondays a lot lately. That means that every Saturday morning, BEFORE the money is in the bank, we sit down and make sure that every payment is taken care of, every envelope is filled and all of the rest, ALL OF IT, goes to our debt. We control the river of cash, we’re not just riding along, hoping that we will make it out okay.
Do it with your spouse. Sit down, write down every payment you owe in your notebook, and figure it out. You can do this.
Once you’ve done it. Send me an email or comment below. I want to cheer you on!
Take a couple of bucks for gas money.
Right now, tell me:
How much do you spend gas each month, really? Do you know?
How many miles do you or your spouse drive to work?
How many miles is it to take your kids to school/football/dance practice/piano lessons, etc? These are questions you should know the answer to. Take a minute. Go go Google Maps and figure it out. Write all those numbers down in your budget notebook. Then figure out how much you are spending on gas. Seriously, make it happen. 10 minute project will give you so much more knowledge.
Knowledge is power, baby.
We spend $40 a tank, which lasts us about 10 days. We have a pretty simple life.
So, $40 x 3 tanks a month = $120, right? Ummm… not necessarily. We use the sinking funds method to give us a little extra room to squeak in some money. What do I mean? We plan on spending $160 a month on gas. That way, if we plan an extra weekend trip to visit a new site, or we want to go on a little family adventure- the gas money is covered.
And, this is where it gets really cool. So, we don’t use the extra $40 for a couple of months. It’s only 40 bucks. We may not even notice. Do that for 5 months and there’s an extra $200! Put that $200 to your debt. Use it for Christmas money. Or, maybe, put that into a different envelope and start saving for a second car! You are saving, and not even feeling it!
Think gas money is off, how much do you spend for groceries? Whew.
This is where most families blow it. We sure were.
Track it. Find the last three receipts from the grocery store trip to see how much you spend, on average, per month. Then you have a baseline. If you don’t have the receipts, look at your card statement. I know you’re not using cash to pay at the grocery. Know how I know? Because when we pull out the cash to pay for our groceries we get those weird, sideward glances. The kind that people think you don’t see, but you totally see. Totally.
Figure out how much you spend each month on groceries. Don’t know where to start? Look at this chart from the USDA Food Plans on Cost of Food. Wow. That gives you a clear idea of what you should be spending. According to this, to eat balanced meals, on a low-cost plan we should be spending:
Mom (age 19-50) $209.90 + Dad (age 19-50) $241.80 + Child (age 2-3) $133.30 =$585.00
We are spending less than that (in the $500 range) and eating healthy, balanced meals. There’s some wiggle room in the groceries. Find your numbers and start getting creative with the ideas.
This may not seem like much, but you have to see the big picture. I didn’t completely see the big picture of my student loans.
Until I did. And it was like I was just punched in the gut. But once I saw that, I was so mad inside. So, crazy, stinkin’ mad! It was like fire from my gut. I have never felt that kind of anger before.
Still don’t think it matters?
Here’s another example of how it something little can get to be a mess. Just yesterday, my friend, Jared Easley, put on Facebook how grateful he was for the Unroll Me App that takes him off of all those emails newsletters he’s getting all the emails he just doesn’t need anymore. After watching this video I got thinking, “I’m probably on about 100 email lists. It’s really wasting my time. I should do this.”
So I put in my main email address and waited a minute or two. Or five. Or seven.
And then, I saw this:
Over 700 email newsletters? Is that a joke? Is this some kind of sick record? How did I miss this? That’s insane. NO WONDER I feel like I’m drowning in emails! No wonder I sit at the computer and not get anything done! Holy smokes, girl. What was I thinking?
And that’s the point. I wasn’t. I was floating along in a happy canoe of email inundation. Who can live like this? And that’s email. Some people are floating along the blinded canoe of bills and debt. It’s only a matter of time until they crash!
I don’t want that for you! I want you to jump in and do the work. I went through and made the decisions to either: Unsubscribe or Add it to my Rollup.
And this Roll up system is awesome. Once a day, it sends me 1 email. Just one. This email has a list of all the newsletters and I can click on the link from there to read it. When I decide I have time.
Now look at this.
It feels like sunshine and daffodils. Email is a blissful walk in the meadow with the deer playing vivaciously as I ponder the beauty of the emails I choose to read. It’s so refreshing.
This could be just like you and your finances. You’ve got bills coming in that you don’t even know about. It’s time to get organized. There is way, way too much at stake here! This is your future. This is your family. This is your heritage. Make it a good one.
Tell me now, what is one thing you are going to figure out to fix your budget today?