“DON’T BUY THINGS YOU CAN’T AFFORD WITH MONEY YOU DON’T HAVE TO IMPRESS PEOPLE YOU DON’T LIKE.” – DAVE RAMSEY
Discussing finances can be intimidating. If you were not brought up in a home where they were handled well, these types of discussions can leave you feeling uneducated, shameful, and down-right broken hearted. I’m here to offer you hope. There are ways to ease yourself into understanding money in order to begin living a financially stable life. Most of these ideas in this blog have been adapted from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. He has a wonderful gift of breaking down tough subjects into easily understandable concepts to readjust finances to work for you, not against you.
1. Build up a savings.
It doesn’t matter how much or how fast you do so; simply starting to save is a great first step! Setting aside money can build you an emergency fund for when times get stressful. When my husband and I were engaged, his father told us that the one thing to expect throughout our marriage was that some sort of unexpected expense would probably happen every month. I knew my personal accountant would be handling my finances, so I wasn’t worried. (Seriously, y’all, my husband is an accountant.) But guess what: There has been an unexpected expense almost every single month we’ve been married. Because we took the time at the beginning of our marriage to build up an emergency fund, these expenses have not yet overwhelmed us. Have they been stressful? Yes. But, have we been able to handle them? Also, yes. Thanks to our savings account. We consistently put money in every paycheck to keep a safe cushion and continue building our emergency fund.
2.Create a budget.
We also do our best to create an effective budget. Dave Ramsey says, “A budget is telling your money where to go rather than wondering where it went.” Having a budget allows you to recognize your strengths and weaknesses in dealing with money. For us, we are pretty good at staying below budget when it comes to our dogs… unless it is their birthday month. Unfortunately, we’ve noticed that our weakness most often comes from our Eating Out/Entertainment Envelopes. This is an area we are continually working on understanding better and realigning to best benefit our family. Which brings us to our next point:
3. Actually discuss the budget you created.
It’s a great idea to create budgets, especially if they use more than two excel formulas in the spreadsheet. If you aren’t using and talking about the budget, it can become useless. Learn from your mistakes each month and adjust accordingly. Understand that some months may be more difficult than others, and that’s ok. If I remember correctly, Dave Ramsey says it takes a solid three to six months of working hard at keeping a budget before it truly sticks. You can make alternations as needed. You will need to practice being flexible with your category allotments until it become more natural. We set a specific time (and time limit) for budget meetings throughout the month to help us stay in control of our money. Offer yourself grace for your mistakes and stay fervent on becoming better.
4. Tackle your debt.
The word debt often strikes fear in people when heard, however, you can begin to implement critical blows to your debt with just a few small monetary adjustments. Start by creating goals to officially get out of debt. Where do you want to be in a year? Five years? Creating a starting point can be the hardest part. One of the best and most effective ways I’ve heard to pay off debt is called “snowballing”. You should make a prioritized list of what needs to be paid off first. Make minimal payments on all, except the one you want to pay of the most quickly – make that payment as much as you can. It helps build momentum if you pay off your debts from smallest to largest. Once you have paid your debt in full, allocate that money towards something else in the budget. Take that amount and add it to the minimal payment of the next most important debt to pay off. As you go down the list, your payment gets larger and larger (creating a snowball) giving you more freedom and excitement to continue paying off your debt.
5. Don’t forget to have fun.
If you want to go on vacation – put line in your budget to begin saving for it. If you like to grab a Starbucks a few times a week, budget for it. Remember, you are telling your money where to go. Set financial goals to reach and don’t forget to budget in a celebration when you reach them. Budgeting doesn’t mean you cannot go out anymore. Take this time of savings to indulge in all the free things you can find around your city. Get creative. Make it a game between you and your spouse or friends to see who can find the most fun and the least expensive thing to do on Friday night.
Sticking to a budget delays some gratification, but ultimately leads to a freedom very few people truly experience. It only seems right to finish this blog the same way it started (by quoting Dave Ramsey): “ Nothing happens without focus. Don’t try to do everything at once. Take it one step at a time.”