The holiday season is one of my favorite times of the year and let’s be honest, it is the time of year where I spend money on other people and enjoy it. It’s never a lot of money because in my former life I was a procrastinator and always failed to plan for Christmas even as the decorations were going up in October.
This year followed a similar trajectory. But in October I got a budget, made a plan and now all my Christmas shopping is
done almost done.
And you know what I discovered about budgets? Budgets equal confidence. And confidence is sexy. Therefore, budgets are very sexy.
Wait, let me explain.
I clearly have not always felt this way about budgets.
For much of my life, budgeting was about the pain of discipline and the shame of failing.
Budgeting, at least for me, has always been about achieving perfection, and then feeling guilty when I proved time and time again that I’m not perfect.
Budgets made me feel inadequate and unsure of my ability to adult. Budgets were very unsexy.
Until I met a budget that I liked.
After that, I realized budgeting is a lot like dating. Sometimes you’ve got to kiss a few frogs before you get a prince/princess.
So if you haven’t found “The One,” keep looking. Never give up and think through these three things to recognize “The One”:
- The right budget doesn’t hold your past against you, supports your present being, but is willing to help you plan for the future. You took out too many student loans. You ran up the credit cards. You don’t have enough saved for an emergency. Retirement? You mean I can’t work until I die? Oh. The right budget helps you start wherever you are and says, “You can do this.”
- The right budget doesn’t make you feel like you’re always doing it wrong. The right budget says, “We can do this better, together.” You budgeted $100 for eating out. You spent $125. You technically “failed.” A good budget says, “You spent more than you intended. Adjust and move on without guilt.”
- The right budget puts you in the driver’s seat and empowers you to prioritize what you really want out of life. You say you value experience over things, but when it’s time to snap up that great flight deal, there is nothing but cobwebs and tumbleweeds in your savings account. The right budget helps you put your money where your heart is instead of just where your mouth and feet are. The right budget helps you set goals instead of just limiting your spending.
The reality is that you have to find a system that works for you. Before the advent of phones that are basically handheld computers, I used Dave Ramsey’s monthly cash flow planning sheets and his cash envelope system. I liked the cashflow sheets and kept a binder full of them, religiously, for years.
(If you read the OktoberFast Update post, you know I now use software called YNAB (You Need A Budget) to manage money.)
But I didn’t last more than two months with the cash envelope system, which was supposed to govern my daily money management. I probably had too many envelopes and I was not the best at always writing down what I spent. I also never felt the “pain of spending cash” as Dave Ramsey likes to call it. The only pain I felt was when those envelopes were empty and payday was off in the distance. Empty envelopes just increased my anxiety because the grocery store money was gone, but there was no food in the refrigerator, and I didn’t know why.
When Reese and I started Operation Do Better we were living and cooking together. We also were overspending on our shared grocery budget. We’re a little bougie. We like good cheese and wine. Having one envelope strictly for grocery money and meal planning helped us rein in that spending area.
And that leads me to my next point. No one thing is going to fix your finances. But a number of specific, very intentional steps might. Reese and I had to budget and then develop a strategy for how we met that budget. We saw spending less on groceries as a goal rather than a limit. We saw occasional spending fasts from things like eating out as a way to realign our priorities and to reach goals faster. Reaching that goal allowed us to reward ourselves appropriately. Rewarding ourselves appropriately encouraged us to keep going.
You might be saying to yourself: Ricks, this is all cute and what not, but why are y’all still in debt?
The short answer: When I quit my job, we also quit the system. Not just the system of regular steady income, but the system of managing resources and managing them well. And honestly, while we’re not out of debt, we’re actually only wrapping up year two of actually trying to get out.
You’ll have to read Part 2 of this blog post if you want a more detailed answer. 🙂
Now that we’ve refocused our attention on slaying debt and saving with purpose and intention, basically Operation Do Better 2.0 (3.0 starts next year), I have been stalking these Interwebs for tips and tricks on how to do better on everything from budgeting to meal planning. And what I have discovered between You Tube and various personal finance blogs is a whole community of folks pushing back against the mass consumption of everything, and opting out of the Cult of Credit Card Debt.
The older I get the sexier financial responsibility gets.
(Hat tip to blogger extraordinaire J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy for inspiring this post.)