OK wait, before you click that ‘x’ in the upper right corner, let’s be honest…this isn’t a fun topic at all. In fact, I’d argue that a lot of us try to avoid budgeting completely in our life and especially in our marriages because 1) it causes conflict, 2) we have to defer gratification and 3) the real kicker… our pride.
I don’t want to lie to you and tell you this blog post is going to solve all 3 of those things for you. However, my husband, Ben, and I agree that budgeting is a total game changer. So hopefully this encourages you to start the conversation with your spouse and TOGETHER take control of your finances with a budget. And if you aren’t married, don’t let that stop you! Talk to a trusted friend who can hold you accountable to it.
Why did we start budgeting?
We have been married for 8 years and only began budgeting in our 6th year of marriage. I know, I know, you thought we were the perfect married couple and had it all together, right? Well, I hope I don’t actually give off that vibe because that is so far from the truth.
It’s funny… I guess having your first child makes you realize how much money you are spending and how much you could be saving instead. Or at least that was part of it for us. We also transitioned to a one-income household, and moved to another state during our 6th year of marriage.
Once we decided to make a change to budgeting monthly, that only sharpened our focus for getting out of debt.
We realized we could put more money toward our cars and student loans, we just had to start communicating about it and learn a lot of self-control. Not to mention, budgeting showed us visually how much money we could keep, rather than give away to the bank, if we got out of debt more quickly.
” The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is a servant to the lender” – Proverbs 22:7, NIV. For us, it’s the desire to be free, not to borrow anymore, and become better stewards with the things God has blessed us with. We desire to live below our means, and in return have the ability to become more financially generous. And to do that…you need a budget.
What has budgeting done for our marriage, our household, and ourselves?
Increased Communication, Decreased Anxiety…
Ben and I used to never communicate about our budget. Math and numbers just happened to be his thing, so he would do his part in paying the bills. Meanwhile, because I wasn’t taking an active role in our finances, I’d get anxious about whether we had enough money in our account or not. We watched our parents do the same – naturally, one person carried the role of managing the finances, just as they probably watched their parents do as well. This is not uncommon and was most likely passed down from a generation where talking about money or how much you made out loud was frowned upon. This is something we hope to change within our own family. We plan on talking about money with our kids early on and including our them in budget planning when they are old enough.
Fast forward to now and not only do I know how much money we have in our account, but also how much comes out throughout the month and where it goes. Ben is still in charge of paying the bills; however, I am in the know this time. Why? Because part of my role in our marriage is purchasing things that our family needs. The only healthy way to do that without Ben is to know how much I can safely spend each month. And that has been life-changing! My anxiety over money has decreased. And God’s faithfulness and promise to provide exactly what we need has been proven time and time again.
It may sound silly but monthly budget meetings have become something I really look forward to at the end of each month. No distractions; just paper, a pencil, and an hour or two long chat with the man I love about what we see our family needing and doing in the coming month.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be a little taxing too. Because lets be real, not every month is treated equally – celebrations, anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, weekend trips, holidays, you name it! We can’t control where all of them fall but we can plan ahead for them. Sometimes we lighten things up with a cocktail or some wine if we know there is a big month ahead. And then there are the things you can’t plan ahead for and that’s where God’s provision especially comes in (along with your emergency fund).
“‘Therefore, I will tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?'” – Matthew 6:25-30, NIV
Budgeting has caused a most welcome shift in the way our household functions regarding meal planning too. Seriously, I wrote a whole post about it HERE.
Ben, Eden, and I choose the meals for the week from a menu I’ve created, which includes main dishes as well as side dishes. We write them down on a paper that gets posted to the fridge, and then I create a weekly grocery list based off of that. I cook about 4-5 meals a week and plan for leftovers 2-3 times a week. The leftovers make great lunches for Ben too, so that we don’t have to budget for him buying lunch daily.
I shop at my favorite place, Aldi, on a $105/week budget and I can get PLENTY. That averages to be about $5/meal for 3 people!! And sometimes I don’t even spend that! My rule of thumb is that I always have a list and if it’s not on it, I don’t buy it. And if I can’t find it at Aldi (which isn’t too many things), I go to the next cheapest grocery store on my way home.
Giving every dollar of our income a purpose creates a long-term, habitual need for planning out the small details. And if you are anything like me, planning out those small details, like what you are going to eat every day, can be SO helpful.
For example, my struggle for YEARS when 5 o’clock rolled around and I had no idea what I was making for dinner. I could, (A) start searching Pinterest for ideas, BUT it would take me forever to find something I already had the ingredients for. Or (B) I could ask my husband (after a long day at work) to stop by the store and grab a few things, which also meant we weren’t eating until 8:00PM. Or (C – the more than likely answer) we could just go out to eat.
Now add a screaming kid in the background, asking for something to eat when you don’t even know what you’re making yet. Tell me that isn’t a struggle worth trying to help! And I have heard many other moms testify to this, so I know I’m not the only one! Why not do something about it?!
If you make monthly budgeting a habit, meal planning goes hand in hand. It’s simple; I can’t afford not to meal plan when I’m on a budget. So it’s a win-win, if you ask me.
Helped us Find ‘Extra’ Money (yes, you read that right)…
In order to budget well so that we could attack our debt at a faster, more intense rate, we’ve had to take a close look at everything we’re spending money. Why? Because even saving a few dollars here or there can still make a huge difference over a year. And in doing this we have saved quite a bit, even in the areas where we thought we were getting a good deal.
In this year alone we’ve cut both our home owners and car insurance in HALF, and we are still getting the same coverage! WHAT?! It pays to shop around before deciding on a plan, trust me. And making sure you’re still getting the best deal every few years is a good idea too. We were without cable for years into our marriage and the only reason we have it now is because we happen to get an unbelievable rate when we moved into our house 2 years ago. But let me tell you, as soon as they try to bump up the monthly rate on us, we will have no problem saying goodbye to it again. We used money from our savings to pay off our cell phones so that our monthly bill would be a lot lower. And we also decreased our data allowance because we realized how much we weren’t using.
Lastly, I can’t avoid talking about what sends many Americans in over their heads with their monthly spending: car payments. The value my husband and I place on cars has changed drastically. Considering that my husband, Ben, has had a fascination with nice cars and owning one for as long as I can remember, that’s huge!
The average monthly car payment is $475 and having a long-term car payment has become the norm. Dave Ramsey, the creator of Financial Peace University, says “When it comes to money, normal is broke. You want to be weird, and weird people don’t have car payments.”
Getting rid of our car payments 2 years ago really lit the fire under us for taking control of our finances. As long as we can help it we will never have a car payment again. We have a plan to save, sell our current car at the right time, and purchase our next ‘new to us’ car, with ALL CASH. It won’t be too fancy, or have low miles, but it will be safe and get us through the next few years. Long enough to finish getting out of debt and build our savings.
Looking to the Future
Budgeting not only has us looking at the ‘now’ but also to the future. We see how much money we’ll be pocketing and dream about what we could do with it. And budgeting won’t stop once we’re out of debt. Nope, it’s a lifelong partner to our financial success – without one you can’t have the other.
We will continue budgeting to build up our personal savings, to invest, to create a 529 Savings account for kid’s college, and to throw more money into our 401K while we are young. The possibilities are calculated but endless! We will even budget during retirement as well. We need to be good stewards of the hard work we’ve put in, especially if we want to live it up in our golden years! Traveling, time with family, giving to those in need…that’s our retirement plan!
I think the main thing that we learned while setting goals and looking to the future is that retiring a millionaire (yes, I said millionaire) is totally within reach… and not just exclusively to us! If you are willing to put in the work and ‘pay now so you can play later’ (NOT the other way around), then retiring a millionaire is certainly a reality.
So where do YOU start?
First and foremost educate yourself. We didn’t have a lot of financial wisdom coming into our marriage, and fortunately we figured that out and did something about it. So can you! We got started by using the program, Financial Peace University created by Dave Ramsey. There are classes offered at a variety of places around the U.S. You can also go to his website HERE to check out all of the resources available including his budgeting tool HERE. His process for budgeting, becoming debt-free, and saving your money has been proven over, and over, and over again. I’d also recommend taking a listen to his radio show HERE and purchasing his book The Total Money Makeover HERE. You can get answers to questions you may have as well as hear some amazing testimonies from people who have put in the work and are now living debt-free.
Once you’re on your way or close to being financially free, make sure you check out Chris Hogan’s book, Retire Inspired, HERE so that you can begin setting goals for the where, when, and hows of retirement as well as how much you need to get there.
Budgeting has spurred us on to get serious about our end goal, which is being financially free. And we hope this same thing for you. Because freedom is worth it. It’s worth the conflict, the deferred gratification, the letting go of your pride. We weren’t meant to be enslaved by such things as money or banks in our life here on earth.
“It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1, NIV. Financial freedom will change you, your marriage, and your future for the better. And a budget is the planning tool you need to get there.
Now go and ponder for a while, because this was a long post ya’ll…