Tuesday, April 9, 2013

What's the most fun you can have with an Excel spreadsheet and your bank statements? That's right folks, it's time to BUDGET!

I would be remiss if I got too far into this month without writing about budgeting.  I can almost feel all of you closing your browser and going back to Facebook, and I can't blame you.  Budget is a four-letter word in my house (yet somehow I was a straight A student who excelled in language arts), but I feel like I need to blog about it because it's important. (Notice the bold letters?  Yep, it's that important)

When Tots and I got married, we had two very different ideas of money management.  Our backgrounds were comparable, we lived fairly similarly in terms of haves and have-nots.  Our families were both pretty average in terms of income; they weren't rich by any means, but we certainly always had the necessities.  What was so different was our relationships with our own incomes.

To put it simply without going into too much detail, one of us was a spender, one of us was a saver.  As you can probably guess, this occasionally put a strain on our pocketbook, as well as our relationship.

Fast-forward a few years and some tough times.  Throw in a sort of-surprise pregnancy (O wasn't necessarily unplanned, but he wasn't really planned either).  We were two people with a mountain of debt in the form of student loans, a brand new mortgage, auto loans, and a small fortune in recently acquired credit card debt (moving from one city to another brought about some unexpected costs).

Somehow, Tots stumbled upon Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover.  I thought he would leaf through it and toss it aside, but it really sparked his interest.  He began analyzing our spending habits and figuring out why our paychecks would just "disappear."  I was less than surprised when he told me that we were quite possibly single-handedly keeping the lights on at our local McDonalds and Subway restaurants (I love me a $5 foot long!).

If you're not familiar with Dave Ramsey, you should take a moment and check out his site.  His debt-reduction tactics center on creating a budget and paying off your debts, one by one, starting with the smallest.  Once your smallest debt is paid off, you move on to the next smallest and so on.

As soon as we sat down together and took a look at where our money was going, it was pretty clear to us that we needed to make some changes.  We thought about our goals and our dreams, and we knew that they wouldn't be achieved at the rate we were going.  We either needed to win the lottery, or one of us needed to die so we could cash in on life insurance.  Since we don't play the lottery, and since we both kind of liked having the other around, we decided it was time to put down the shovel-- quit digging ourselves further into debt, and make some real changes.  It wasn't easy, but we sat down with our hopes in mind and started putting together our budget.

Was it fun?  Absolutely not.  But it has really been a good thing for us.  We know where our money is going, and we have far fewer "surprises" from month to month.  It's also nice to know that Tots and I are on the same page as far as money goes.  It's one less thing to fight about, so we can save our battles for the important things, like what to watch on Tuesday nights or which way is the right way to fold a t-shirt.

If you're looking for an easy way to get started with your budget, I encourage you to take a look at your bank statements first, and figure out where you're spending your money.  Then, take a look at your bills.  What do you have to pay?  Think about rent, loans, credit card payments, utilities, anything that you get a monthly bill for.  With what's left, you can figure out some of your more flexible debts.  Things like your weekly grocery bill and your entertainment fund.  There are tons of free budgeting spreadsheets available online to help you get started.  Happy budgeting!

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