Thursday, April 16, 2015

Money management, budgeting, and other things that make you squirm.

I think the word 'budget' makes a lot of people squirm. It seems like there are a lot of guilts and pressures and stresses about money that run through people's minds when it comes up. Yet, we all handle money on a daily basis. It's necessary to function in our society. Jesus said a lot about it. Whether or not you think money affects you very much, I would suggest it does. 

I sometimes sense a bondage to money among people, and in myself. A feeling of letting money control my decision-making. And that is so backwards. WE should have control of our money, not let it control us. WE should be telling our money what to do, where to go, and how to behave. While you obviously need to provide food, shelter, and clothes for yourself (and your family), there is a lot of wiggle room in what that looks like. I know very few people who will say they feel like they have a handle on their finances. And with that uncertainty and tension comes stress. We've definitely experienced that feeling. It's not fun.

All that to say... Ben and I have a budget. A pretty strict budget, actually. Every month, we look at how much is coming in and what we need to spend and we assign a "job" to every dollar, so to speak. Right now, all the leftovers go to student loan payoffs.  

Over the past few weeks, I've written about each of my 2015 goals and I mentioned our one financial goal was to pay down about 25-33% of our student loan debt. It's a stretch for us. 

And to stretch and find the extra money for debt, it means we have to know where our money is going. 

Budgeting isn't really new for us, but it's working better for us now. I think we both knew we should have a budget when we got married, and we were generally on the same page about a lot of things, and still, it's taken us almost 5 years to find a system that works. 

We have tried a LOT of different things for our budget.
Excel spreadsheets 
pen and paper 
budgeting worksheets from different books and websites 
cash envelopes
doing the budget together
me doing it by myself 
having no budget [not a good idea] 

I feel like we are just finally getting the hang of what works for us. And even still, there are things we're tweaking pretty regularly. 

So, please do not think that by writing about this whole budgeting money thing, I'm suggesting this will solve all your financial conundrums, OR that we have it down and are really perfect at handling money. 

That is not it at all. But as we've gone through different things financially, we have so so so appreciated people who've spoken into our situation and said "this worked for me, "or "try this software, we really liked it," or "this book was really helpful to me."Most recently, a friend shared her budgeting spreadsheet with me and we switched over to it. It made way more sense and was way better than the one I had made previously. I keep getting the feeling that I should write about our budgeting and money-handling processes. Maybe it's because I know other people around me who are on a similar journey of working on money management, or maybe it's because something that people keep so private, or maybe it's because it's REALLY hard to manage money and the public accountability will keep me in line ;)

I think if you're going to be a good manager of money (or manager of anything for that matter), you have to be willing to evaluate and re-evaluate. To look at what's working and not working. To look closely and pay attention and have self-discipline. It takes energy and effort. 

And while a lot of banks and budgeting softwares and credit card companies would like to market to you that handling your money is as easy as 1-2-3 with their system, it's just not true. Because if it were easy to be good about handling money, then everyone would be doing it well. 

My goal is to embark on a little mini "series," if you will, where I share a things that have and haven't worked for us.

Where I share openly about why we do what we do and where we're at in our debt-paydown journey. (And why we're even paying it down!)

I want to share some financial miracles we've experienced, and some ways we've taken risks.

And, I just enjoy talking about home finances with people because I'm a HUGE nerd about this stuff.

At the end of the day, I want to accomplish 2 things by writing down all this money & budgeting stuff...
1. I hope it's helpful to someone
2. I'd love to hear from you (your tips & tricks, successes & failures, opinions & questions, etc...)

So, are you interested?
Any initial tips, tricks, success, failures, opinions, or questions to share?