The word budget used to make me cringe – I pictured all the Kate Spade purses I couldn’t buy, the extra frivolous nights out with friends, the spending sprees I couldn’t partake in…You get the picture.
I was always into a savings account, but I never really paid attention to where my money went – a little to Target here, a little more at Bath and Body Works, a lot more at Sephora. It was all fun and games in college – I worked and I spent and I saved a little. I had a credit card that I paid off on time each month to build my credit, and I never overdrafted my account. I was doing everything right, wasn’t I?
When I married my darling husband, I knew he was the Jack of all trades: he was a golf pro, business savvy, an excellent cook, organized, brilliant, handsome… the list goes on and on. But something I didn’t know about him was how incredibly smart he is about money. Shortly after we got married, we took Financial Peace at our church and it was a serious budget bootcamp that left me equally panicked and excited. What if we weren’t saving aggressively enough? Did we have a diversified portfolio in the works? Should we have Roth IRAs yet? How were we preparing for our downpayment on the house of our dreams? What about Life Insurance? Social Security? Eek!
By now you understand that I’m the Free Spirit (“Another budget talk? Already?!”) Dave Ramsey refers to in his work, and my hubby is the Nerd (read: methodical, pragmatic, and meticulous about our money). While it’s not in my nature to tackle the tough money questions, I think it’s really important for everyone to consider their financial goals, use the right tools to achieve them, and understand that there is real peace in telling your money where to go instead of watching it disappear.
Here are some of my favorite hints and hacks from Financial Peace that you can start implementing to help you keep your budget on track (or start a budget)!
Find Someone to Keep You Accountable
This is one of the most important steps for me in our budget and financial planning. My honey always gently reminds me of our goals and helps me work toward them alongside him, which is incredibly helpful and keeps me focused. Single gals and guys can always ask a sibling, friend, or family member to have some budget meetings with them and to support them in their planning, and married folks can sit down with their spouses to see what’s working in their budgets and what is keeping them from meeting their goals.
Have An Emergency Fund
This is a crucial step that Dave emphasizes for folks who want to be prepared for anything. (Isn’t that everyone?) Make this a priority early on in your budgeting and financial planning to save up what makes you feel comfortable when you think about waking up to a flat tire, making an emergency room visit, having to take an unexpected trip, or other similar situations. It’s so freeing to know you don’t have to worry about the “what if” situations, because you know they’ll happen eventually and you’ll be prepared for them when they do.
Don’t Spend What You Don’t Have
Perhaps this is a simple concept, but it’s difficult to carry out in the world of credit cards and financing. Don’t finance a trip you can’t pay for, buy a car you don’t need, or saddle yourself with a mortgage that makes you “house poor.” A lot of the pressure we put on ourselves is that we need more, bigger, and better all the time, and the problem with that thinking is two-fold: 1. You don’t learn to practice contentment with what you do have, and 2. you continue to dig yourself into a financial hole that becomes so deep and scary that you lose sight of your goals (and your progress).
Knock Out Your Debt
Dave Ramsey has a plethora of ways you can kill your debt so that your dreams become reality more quickly, and paramount among them is to have a plan to get out of debt as fast as you can. The myth I came into my marriage believing was that there were types of debt and some were better than others; for instance, student loans were “positive” debt, while a car payment on a Ferrari was “negative” debt. The truth is that all debt is negative and sucks money out of your pocket, so you have to be careful about what you sign on for.
Use Real Money
This one may sound silly, like you should use real money in place of Monopoly money or something. But truthfully, you’re not attached to your debit or credit card like you are to actual bills in your wallet, which means you don’t feel anything when you swipe your card. This is a super easy way to know exactly what you have and keep yourself from overspending since you can’t spend money you don’t physically carry with you!
Tools for Your $$$
If you want to explore some of these concepts more in-depth take a look at the resources below from Dave Ramsey’s website:
- Tools and Resources Overview
- See Dave in OKC
- Start Your Budget
- Other Budget Forms
- Find a Financial Peace Class Near You
Remember that attaining your financial goals is a marathon, not a sprint, and that you have a ton of resources at your fingertips to help you get started!
How do you plan and maintain your budget?