Wow, it’s been almost a month since my first post. I have to say I have been apprehensive about what to write next, or whether I should even try to continue this blog. I know, I just started and I was already jumping ship. I can certainly say I was lacking any kind of confidence, and it was the biggest factor in my reluctance. After spending time looking at other people’s successful, and well written blogs, I’ve gotten some creative juices flowing and a bit of, dare I say, courage, to keep pushing. Everyone starts somewhere right?
Where I’m choosing to start is with a word that no one likes to talk about, but one that I’ve recently become a bit passionate for. Budgeting. Yes, I said the dreaded word of adulthood. To most this means restriction. It means staying at home with the lights off twiddling your thumbs because your spreadsheet says you can’t spend money or have fun. I have to admit I thought all of these things when I first decided I needed to have a budget in my life. I thought I was never going to be able to eat out again or do anything fun. Fortunately, I’ve found this idea to be completely false, and after reading the testimonies of those who were in thousands upon thousands of dollars of debt and who have paid it all off in a few years, and I’ve decided it is and will be quite worth it. Did I get to this feeling overnight? Kind of. It took one night and a couple weeks of research to fully appreciate budgeting.
It all started when I woke up one morning to find that I had not only depleted my bank account, I had overdrew from it. The first thing I did was cry because what else do you do when you see that you have no money? Then I remembered I had some checks from work that I’d been forgetting to deposit. After depositing them I kept crying and called my mom (don’t we all in the middle of adulthood crisis?). You’re probably thinking “How can you overdraw your account? Didn’t you see this coming?” The answer is a little shameful because no, I didn’t see it coming since I had not checked my bank balance in months. Yes, that’s right, months. I should probably explain how things got this bad. I’ve always been the frugal type. I was never a big spender, and even when I was a kid whenever I wanted something I would save up for it. I never went out and spent all of my birthday and Christmas money (my birthday is ten days from Christmas) like my brothers did. I would contemplate which thing I wanted, and I would look around to make sure it was exactly the right thing to buy. I remember in the sixth grade when I saved my birthday and Christmas money from the year before to buy an iPod nano third generation. That was the first one that played video for all you 90s babies out there. Needless to say, I have been careful with my money until this past year. 2017 has been a whirlwind of emotion, heartache, and lessons. I will explain that in another post, but after everything that went on worrying about money was at the bottom of the list of things I wanted to worry about. There were several other factors that went into my poor money management, but let’s just say I was neglectful and absolutely tired of not giving into any impulsiveness to spend my money.
Once I saw that bank account balance, I knew something had to change. Around a month before this happened, I had sensed that my financial situation wasn’t stellar, so for July I had thought about using a cash envelope system developed by Dave Ramsey, but after seeing my bank account I knew I had no other choice. I went online and bought the cash envelope wallet and have started July off on what seems to be a better foot. I hasn’t been easy, but there are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
1. You need to have a written budget.
It does not matter if you write it out by hand, or have it on an excel spreadsheet, but this is crucial, crucial, crucial. You have to have a plan of how you’re going to spend your money every month and where it is going. Before I started budgeting I thought I knew where all of my money was going (it was going to Target, Sheetz, and Kroger), but I realized I had no idea where it all went until I started using a budget sheet. The one I’ve been using is great for college students and already has all of the formulas written in, you just have to fill in the cells. The link to that is here you just have to click “Download Excel File”. Side note: the website I got that spreadsheet from has a lot of great tips for budget beginners, and I’ll link that here.
2. Budgets are not set in stone.
I was worried that when I started this journey, that I would budget incorrectly for categories, like food, and that I would either go over budget or I would starve to death. What I’ve learned is that your budget is absolutely pliable, especially when you’re first starting off like I am. If you find you under budgeted for food, you can move the numbers around a little bit to fit your goals. If you go over in one category, just try and pull it from somewhere else. It’s not the end of the world. Budgets are there to help you know where your money is going, not make you starve or worry. Additionally, I am always updating my budget since I don’t always get paid the same amount every month, and it’s good to check in on things to help you stay on track.
3. Just because you want something that doesn’t mean you need it.
Okay so this has been a hard one for me. After spending the last year or so buying whatever I’ve wanted it’s been hard to differentiate between something I want to buy and something I need to buy. This played a big role in figuring out where to allocate my money into spending categories. Yes, I want to spend $50 a month solely at my favorite coffee shop, but is that something that I need? This probably goes without saying, but I do not have a category for “Coffee”. I do have one for eating out and it is much smaller than I wish it was, but I had to make cuts somewhere while still being realistic.
4. Do your research.
I am by no means an expert, but I also did not wake up one morning with a budgeting epiphany. I have read many blogs, watched some great Youtube videos, and listened to a few podcasts from some very talented and finance savvy people. These are real people who have been in real debt and have dug their way out of it. Everything I know (which isn’t much yet) I learned from other people who have been there before and who know what they’re doing. It’s important to not go in blindly. I was essentially choosing to be blind to my bad spending habits for months, and now I’ve chosen to be mindful and learn how be smarter and more organized with my finances. Below are links to some of my favorite resources far.
Dave Ramsey – Dave has a great system for budgeting, saving money, and living a debt free life.
Life With Sarah – Sarah and her husband have gotten out of thousands of dollars of debt by using Dave Ramsey’s system. She has great advice on why to budget, how to budget, and budget basics.
Cait Flanders – Cait has an amazing blog about mindful budgeting, life after debt, and living a minimalist life. She previously maxed out on credit cards and after changing her mindset and lifestyle she paid off $30,000 in debt in 2 years. She is now an entrepreneur and writer, and by far my favorite blogger out there.
5. It’s going to be uncomfortable at first.
Our culture is bound by consumerism, or “the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable”. Let me tell you friends, it is not economically desirable! It is not desirable to spend all of your money on things you don’t need, or that will either break or you’ll end up throwing away in the end. It is not desirable to have a negative bank balance just to have that tech item everyone has, or that car everyone has, or those shoes everyone has. It is not desirable to cry to your momma like a big baby that you have no money like I did! But this is something ads, celebrities, books, magazines, TV, movies, and social media have told us is what we need to feel good. When we go against this… when we go against the grain it does not always feel good. It might feel restricting or wrong, but the fact of the matter is we are not put on this earth to work, pay off debt, buy things, and die. We were made to be more than just consumers. We are given one life and I would rather be uncomfortable for a little while than be a slave to things.
So far, living life on a budget has been a learning experience. It’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but I’m starting to appreciate a more structured way of handling my life. I’m learning about how to be free from societal burdens about what I’m supposed to do or how I’m supposed to spend my money. I’m also learning that things are not where we should be pulling our life satisfaction from.
I hope this post has helped you in some way, if you stuck around long enough to read it. Or that maybe it inspired you to think about your money differently. My desire is that people don’t go through what I went through, or if you are that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope, there is peace, there is contentment.