For a while now, I’ve been working on this post, never sure if I’d ever publish it. So, I guess if you are reading this, I became brave enough to publish it! :)
I want to share with people who are in stressful financial situations as we have been, that there is hope! That’s why I’m publishing this. It is not to appear as if we have all the answers for every situation and are financially perfect, because we are not! Our life is just so much better than it was since we are on a budget and that’s why I’m sharing it with you.. in hopes that I can somehow be a motivation to someone out there who wants a financial change in their life.
I know, the word “budget” sounds so confining and deprived, but trust me, it’s not! It’s actually quite the opposite!
This post is on one of the best makeovers I’ve ever experienced in my life. No, there isn’t any paint or sandpaper involved, only realistic thinking and some paper & a pen. Oh, and a calculator.
Let me begin by saying that I am usually a skeptic about things that sound too good. So if you’re like me and this post starts sounding like something too good to be true, please bear with me and hear me out, because it is good and true, but it IS also very possible for ANYONE to obtain.
If there ever was a post in the history of this blog that I ask you to SHARE with anyone and everyone you know, it is this one. Seriously, spread it all across cyber world, because I want EVERYONE to experience what we have had going on for a little over a year now. And we are nothing special, just an ordinary middle class American family making a living and staying in our budget to do it. And what’s best is we are not deprived or unhappy at all! Quite the opposite!
Two words that changed our lives as a married couple more than anything is FINANCIAL PEACE. We have the dates of our wedding anniversary (6/4/98), the birth of our two boys (10/18/99) & (7/18/06) and the beginning of financial peace (7/30/15) to celebrate more than anything so far in our married life!
One of hubby and my biggest regrets in life is that we didn’t get our budgeting on track sooner in our lives. I cannot begin to imagine where we would be today, had we done that. So, any young married or single people out there, don’t wait until you’re about forty to do this!
One year and four months before we started our budgeting, we took the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace classes. Why we didn’t start budgeting immediately upon taking the classes, I don’t know. I guess it was because it looked impossible for us and probably because it sounded too good to be true. (I told you I’m a skeptic) :(
One good thing we did while attending the classes, was cut up all our credit cards. What a feeling that was!
Part of us felt afraid (what if something came up that we need to buy, and there’s no money to pay for it?) and part of us felt victorious (no more credit card bills!). Looking back, that was one of the greatest accomplishments for us. We haven’t owned a credit card since and never will. I feel so smug and conceited every time I pitch those almost daily discover, mastercard, citibank, etc.(and yes, I purposely didn’t capitalize those words because they don’t deserve to be capitalized) envelopes into the trash. If hubby is around we make a show of it as the junk mail flies through the air, heading for file 13. :)
The way it used to be…
Going way back, I want to share with you how we used to operate financially. I am usually not one to air our personal life here on this blog too much, but in this case I believe it may be of some help for those of you who can relate to operating this way.
We lived from paycheck to paycheck. Seriously, this wasn’t just a term or expression to us. We literally did this! When payday rolled around, the full check was spent already! When there was not enough there to meet our “needs” we got on each others nerves. Blame games were often played. I was the best, or worst, however you want to put it, at these blame games. When it comes to money, I am the nerd and hubby is the free spirit, so I was, and still sometimes am, the one to harp about how money is spent. I’ve always been the one to sit at the desk, taking care of paying bills and balancing the checking account. Hubby appreciates this since it’s not something he enjoys and I don’t mind doing it, so it works out well. I think it’s also some of the reason I would be the one to complain, since I saw first hand where the money was spent. This is not to say that I didn’t do the same thing at times.. go buy things that we had no money for. :(
We had no idea where our money went. Again, this was not just a casual expression to use, it was literal. Our money was like a lost, dark movement floating around somewhere.
Somehow the flow would land here and there, taking care of some bills, bouncing around in the dark, never being enough. This went on for years. Again, if we would have gotten a hold of this sooner, I’m pretty sure there would be less wrinkles and gray hair for us. :/
The worst thing finally happened. (at the time, we thought it was the best thing) That plastic card seemed like the answer to our financial struggles, so we gave in and signed up for a credit card. After all, we would pay the balance every month, right? Looking back, I am surprised we didn’t resort to this sooner. We were married ten years before getting that first card, a mastercard. It seemed so easy. After a while we felt the lure of a discover card. It offered rewards for a certain amount spent. That would be gaining money, right? After all, we were going to buy groceries anyway, might as well use the card and get money by doing so! We never owned more than those two credit cards, but it only takes one to build debt.
At first we were very faithful in paying them off every month. Then something would come up that we felt we needed to buy, so we would put it on the cards. Christmas time rolled around and we wanted to make good memories for the boys, so we put all their gifts on plastic. An appliance gave out. We put a new one on the card. We can’t live without appliances, right? I won’t even begin to mention some of the poor choices we made regarding those blasted cards. I just know it felt fake living like that. It was like you had “stuff” to show, but inwardly you knew you didn’t deserve it. It wasn’t paid for, after all. It all felt hollow. Of course, as it usually goes with credit cards, we ended up not being able to pay off the debt every month, so interest emerged. The “rewards” we were promised suddenly seemed like a joke.
One poor choice led to another. We even signed up for an equity loan to start a little side business, which ended up not doing so well. The worst part was we began using the equity loan as another credit card! Even after we disposed of those ugly cards, we would withdraw from the equity loan “fund” to make ends meet.
Ever since we have had children, I have been a home maker, but I’ve always had some sort of little side jobs going on. I would be embarrassed to share with you all I have dabbled in. Seriously. I like to try new things. Enough said. But, unfortunately we misused that income most of the time too.
Since we lived from paycheck to paycheck with hubby’s check, we would use this side money for pleasure mostly. We felt we were so tightly strung out with paying bills, etc. that we deserved to use the “extra” money as blow money. I am embarrassed to admit this, but we, or I especially, felt since my first duty was that of a home maker, any extra money I made wouldn’t need to go towards the usual monthly bills, groceries, etc. After all, I didn’t need to make money. Hubby never wanted me to work out of the home. We both felt it was more important for me to be at home with the boys, which I will never regret. (Though I realize there are circumstances where both parents need to work) So this “extra” money could go towards a vacation or new cookware, right? After all, we want to keep up with our friends and blend in, right?
I could go on for quite some time about poor decisions we made financially, nothing really major, but a bunch of little ones adding up. We got so tired of living on the edge, never knowing where our money went and never having enough. The area that we ended up being most deprived of was groceries, of all things! That was always what came last. We would pay our bills and what ever was left over would go towards food. No, we weren’t starving, but the cupboards were never really nice and stocked up either.
I think in the back of our minds we knew there would surely be another way to live with more stability financially, but we felt we couldn’t get on track. We were always able to pay our bills, but nothing more. How could we ever save money that way?
So some of the reason we didn’t budget sooner was because we felt we didn’t have enough of an income to even budget. After all, we were always minus in the end, right?
Another thing I am embarrassed to admit is the fact that we never tithed at that point in our lives. Oh, we would throw a twenty or two into the offering, but that of course, wasn’t tithing. Only later in our life did we discover the real meaning of the word tithe..literally giving ten percent of your income! This could be a whole other subject alone, because I seriously believe if you tithe, you will be rewarded in so many ways, even financially. In the past when people told me that, being the skeptic I am, I would think how could that be? But, it really is true! We are able to give more money than we have before and now we have more available than in the past, and don’t have a bigger income.
My sister and her husband had been on a budget for a while already and always tried to encourage us to do the same, but us being the skeptics we were, it took some time before we finally gave it a try. To this day we give them credit for getting us started. We also took the Dave Ramsey classes, which played a huge part in getting our way of thinking on the right track. I mean you can’t help not liking the guy. He makes sense. Plus, he’s hilariously funny. :)
The thing that was hardest for us was how do we ever get started? After all, living from paycheck to paycheck, how could we ever get any money into an envelope or category for next month’s bill? The paychecks were spent already. It always seemed like we were one step behind, which looking back now, we literally were.
Since this post is getting a bit long, I will make two of them, so if you want to see how we did it to get started for a MAJOR MONEY MAKEOVER and FINACIAL PEACE, stay tuned! Part two is coming soon!