I’ve been there. You’ve been there.
I was on my first-ever solo vacation in the east coast. This was going to be a super cheap trip because I was going to camp all the way. I didn’t really budget, or create any plan for that matter… I just went. Of course I wanted to hit a seafood spot or two in every province.. and camping wasn’t quite as cheap as I expected.
I pull my borrowed, black Toyota up to a gas station on a sunny day. I fill up my car to the brim, and my debit gets declined. Must be a mistake. I try again. Declined.
My chequing account was empty.
No problem – still have a Visa.
I wore out my pair of shoes and had to get a new pair. I needed some camping supplies… and of course campsites, gas and food. Eventually I maxed out my Visa too – a couple thousand kilometers from home.
Maybe you haven’t been there but we’ve all been there one way or another.
Surprised about money – and not in a good way.
Whether your card is declined at the pump. Or you realize you probably shouldn’t have bought that new TV. Or you realize you’ve got more days than you thought until your next paycheque…
Or maybe you’re making a good amount of money but look back on the last year and have no idea where it all went? And you think ‘shouldn’t I have been able to save more!?’ Been there, too.
In that kind of moment you know you’re missing something… a budget. The kind you follow.
Or you realize you should finally start budgeting.
There’s a dangerous habit I fell into, and I think we can all fall into; only thinking about budgeting when under pressure.
Follow this pattern long enough, and you’ll hate just the thought of budgeting.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Like Sarah shared in last week’s post, sharing our finances actually makes our marriage stronger. But it does take work. And intentionality.
Also known as budgeting.
Eventually – I learned I actually really enjoyed budgeting, even though I thought I hated it.
- Deciding how you are going to spend your money before you spend it makes decision making “in the field” way easier.
- Budgeting allows us to save and give what we want, when we want.
- Budgeting avoids the “You did what?!” conversations.
- Budgeting puts us on track to our long term goals.
- Budgeting actually gives us short term freedom.
- Perhaps most importantly, budgeting allows us to be more generous than we ever could by living on a whim.
Deciding how to spend your money ahead of time removes the ambiguity from everyday spending decisions.
No more feeling guilty when you hit the drive-thru on a crunch day – as long as you’ve budgeted for it. No trying to sneak an expensive purchase under the radar – as long as it’s been agreed on ahead of time, just go for it!
Next week we will get even more exposed when it comes to how we share and manage our finances. How our bank accounts look, how we save long-term, plan short-term, balance week-to-week expenses… but this week we’re tackling what motivates us to get there.
Budgeting brings Sarah and I closer together because it gives us a forum to share our everyday hopes and dreams.
I want a new road bike, she wants to save for a special vacation – it’s all good! We just have to plan it:)
Still, it took a while for me to move from “I hate budgeting” to a place where I can actually look forward to it.
Full disclosure here, I don’t love the process of budgeting, but I do LOVE the outcome of budgeting.
So – how do you enjoy budgeting even when you may not enjoy budgeting?
Step 1 – Get on the Same Page As Your Spouse.
If only one of you sees it as a priority to come to the table to budget, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Sarah loves our budget meetings. I….. endure… because I know the value in them and love the end result. Even though we don’t both enjoy the actual process to the same degree – we agree on the value.
Step 2 – Find Your System.
Do some research and find a system that works for you. You may need to change course a couple times before you find something that really works. We currently use a combination of Mint.com and a simple spreadsheet from IWBNIN.com
We use Mint to track our trends, and give us “real time” stats on our budget spending. It’s automatic and awesome. Oh, and it’s free.
We use the IWBNIN spreadsheet to map out our week-to-week and “big picture” spending.
Some other great tools we’ve either tried or our friends use:
- Every Dollar by Dave Ramsey – App/Tool
- You Need A Budget (YNAB) – App/Tool
- Financial Learning Experience – Event at Connexus Church occurring a couple times a year – amazing!
Step 3 – Schedule It.
We can’t emphasize this enough!
This is the single biggest factor as to whether or not our budgeting actually happens.
Confession – we’re currently behind for this very reason. A lot has been on our calendar, but budgeting hasn’t been.
If it doesn’t get on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. So book a night and make it happen! (we will too!)
Step 4 – Incentivize It.
Make it fun!
You get to decide how you’re going to be smart with the 1000’s of dollars coming your way!
For us, that’s an important responsibility. We want to be faithful with what God entrusts to us, however little more much that may be.
Budgeting is valuable, but if there’s no reward I’m still a grumpy bear while budgeting. For us, a bottle of wine makes our budget night more of an “event” and less of a chore. And to be honest – a little more fun!
Again – next week we will get a little more naked about how we share and manage our finances. How our bank accounts look, how we save long-term, plan short-term, balance week-to-week expenses… not because we’ve got it perfectly figured out, but because we’re on a journey of learning how to manage our money well. And money doesn’t need to be a taboo topic.
In fact, the more we talk about money with others. The more we learn, too!
Do you love budgeting? What works for you?
Do you hate budgeting? What works (or doesn’t!) for you?
We’d love to hear in the comments!