Healthy living is not only about your body, the amount and type of exercise, and the food you eat. It’s about your whole life. Everything that makes up your sphere of experience. Money is a very important element in everybody’s sphere. If it isn’t, lucky you. Whether you adore the world’s paper form of barter or you simply rely on it for survival, yet despise it, we all need it. Unless you live in the woods and actually use a traditional barter system, then you probably wouldn’t be reading this post anyway. However, even in an old-fashioned or traditional barter system, managing your goods so that you have plenty to supply your family and homestead with needs is budgeting. The term is up to you, budgeting, managing, organizing, it’s all relative and plays a vitall role in quality of life and satisfation with life.
Budgets typically scare most people. They are annoying, time consuming, stupid, and HARD! Why are budgets so difficult? It’s because putting every dime on paper forces you to be extremely honest with how juvenile we all act with money. It’s much like facing the scale after Thanksgiving and realizing how poorly disciplined you have been for the last month. Let’s face it, we all rationalize the couple weeks before and after Thanksgiving as Thanksgiving. It’s very difficult to change old habits and to fix ourselves. I find it even harder to “fix” myself when someone is pushing me to do it, because my foolish pride wants it to be my decision and not someone forcing me. It will take time to turn your pocketbook around, get out of debt, and live a financially healthy life. But! You CAN do it. I know you can.
It took me several years to put all the info I absorbed into motion. Of course, I could fool myself and pretend that I was dealing with money well. But once I sat down and added up all the numbers: income, fixed expenses, and spending. I looked around and asked myself, where the heck am I getting money to pay everything?!! I pay more in expenses than I earn every month – how is that possible?? Oh that’s right…I have a credit card. And that bill is…well was very large. I’ve always wanted to be good with money, but it never really hit home exactly how to do so until I started listening to financial podcasts while working. They automatically download on iTunes, they are free, and they don’t take up any extra time. I just hit play and go about my daily work while having a little budgeting wizard constantly in my ear. After about a month of listening, I finally sat down and put things on paper. For me, paper = an Excel document. Do it however suits you. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but since June 2011, I’ve paid off almost $12,000 in debt. I’m $2,000 away from being debt-free except for the house and I can’t wait!! Here are a few tips to getting started:
Budgeting Tip #1: Budgeting Friend
Find a program, mentor, or friend that will be in your corner as you go through the journey to becoming debt-free. It is going to be long, arduous, and very difficult. At times, you’ll want to throw in the towel and run up every credit card you can get your hands on. Other times, you will just want to cry because you’re working working working and still not done. In those moments, you need a resource to revive you. Personally, I listen to Dave Ramsey (daveramsey.com) daily and in those moments of desperation. He almost always has at least one caller that is celebrating their journey to debt freedom. It reminds me that I was to do my debt-free scream so bad that I get right back on track!
Budgeting Tip #2: Be Honest
Once you find a mentor to follow and inspire you and/or a friend to turn to for budgeting advice and support, it is important to take a very honest took at your spending habits and the reason behind those habits. Just like many people gain weight to hide other insecurites and traumas, many people do the same with money. When I was growing up, I had a single working mom with a modest income. While we weren’t dirt poor, money was tight most of the time. We did all those little tricks to save money. When I turned 18 and had the power of credit cards at my fingertips with the siren songs of credit card companies with 0% interest, 5% cash back, etc. incentives…I went into a spending frenzy! Looking back, I think I did that because I always had to say ‘no’ to friends and coming along on trips, etc and so I never wanted to do that as an adult. However, I didn’t have any money!!! I really had to do some soul searching and be brutally honest with myself and why I was on this potentially destructive debt building path.
Budgeting Tip #3: Be Vocal
It’s important that the people in your life, friends and family, understand your goals for the future. That includes your financial goals and how those goals will affect them. I don’t recommend sending them on a guilt trip to despise city, but it is important to share with those closest to you how important it is for you to stay steadfast in your goals. The pursuit of those goals does mean that you can’t go out to eat, you can’t go on a family vacation, and it may even mean you can’t get gifts and presents for every birthday and holiday. Sometimes, you will have to tell the same people no several times. Don’t be too hard on them, they aren’t on the same journey as you so their perspective is different. A gentle reminder of your goals should be enough to call the wolves off.
While you are being honest with yourself and vocal about your goals to others, keep in mind that you are not going to be perfect…but don’t let that be your excuse to fail. It’s a delicate balance between being flexible enough to readjust (I’ve tried several different budgeting techniques and it ever few months) but not allowing yourself to give into defeat. Feel free to share your stories below and I would be happy to support and mentor anyone in need!