Becoming Financially Literate: The Budget

You know the scenario:  the alarm goes off early, as you intended for it to, but as your weary head struggles to rise off of the pillow and one eyelid strains with all it’s might to pry open, you reason your way through the fact that you’re going to hit that snooze button and go back to sleep.  How do I know this?  Because I do it every Sunday morning.  Considering how difficult it is to will my body to do anything early in the morning, it’s amazing that my brain can function with as great of efficiency as it does in the wee hours.  When it comes to figuring out a way to get myself back to sleep, my mind is sharper and quicker in that moment than at any other time of day.  Then, and only then, does my mind calculate with speed and accuarcy that would rival even the most advanced NASA computers-1o minutes to shower, five to blow dry the hair, five to straighten, two minutes to dress, 10 minutes to feed the baby, 15 minutes to find his clothes, change his diaper, and get him dressed, five minutes to load the car, 20 minutes to drive to church, “Oh, yeah.  I can sleep for at least 15 more minutes!”- and back to sleep I go.

What about this- have you ever used less of an ingredient than the recipe called for so that you could stretch it out for one more use just so you wouldn’t have to, for example,  make that extra trip to the store for one measly onion?

Why is it that, when it comes to doing something we want to do (getting more sleep or saving ourselves an extra trip to the grocery store), all the sudden planning in advance to use only a certain amount for a given thing, or BUDGETING, sounds like a great idea, yet, when it comes to our finances, it’s treated like a four letter word?  Budget? You mean that sadistic little taskmaster that says I can’t spend money and fun is not allowed?  Oh yeah, I’ve heard of him. We convince ourselves that a budget is what’s best for us when it comes to things that give us instant gratification or convenience, but then we sabotage ourselves when we say things like “budgets don’t work for us” or “we’re doing just fine without a budget.”  Are you really?  Or are you just doing enough to get by, trusting in the credit card to get you through until the next pay check.  I can vividly remember the early days of our marriage, which I refer to as BD, Before Dave (Ramsey).  My husband was pursuing a Masters and working six part-time jobs.  I was in my senior year of college and working two part-time jobs, and yet there I was, at the WalMart check out with a cart full of groceries and a heart full of fear as I looked in horror at the total.  I knew we didn’t have that much money, but with a sigh of relief, I swiped the Visa and went on my merry way.  I told myself that we’d pay it back with the next check.  That’s what I said every time, only, with every check there was a new and unexpected expense, and the grocery bill that I hadn’t budgeted for continued to draw interest as we were perpetually only able to pay the growing minimum payment.

In the words of Richard Simmons, “Stop the insanity!”  Dave Ramsey says that a budget is nothing more than “telling your money what to do each month before the month begins-on paper, on purpose.”  Handling money without a budget is like walking a wild dog.  You don’t walk it, it walks you!  Money doesn’t have a brain.  Your bank account isn’t going to call you up one day and say, “Hey, goober, stop spending money you don’t have!” Just like the dog, you have to bring it under control because it’s not going to do it for you. 

Truthfully, making and sticking to a budget every month is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, but it is also one of the most rewarding.  After 2 1/2 years of diligence, struggle, and perserverence, my family is nearly debt free, and I am so ready for the finish line.  If you haven’t already, resolve to give your finances an overhaul.  While it seems backwards, there is great bondage in habitually spending carefree and without a plan.  Freedom comes when you have control over your money and pull yourself out from under the oppression of debt.  Only then can you, as Dave says, “live like no one else.”

*Go to daveramsey.com for budgeting tools and forms.

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