lessons in budgeting

I wrote about a few of my financial goals earlier in the year. I am of the opinion that we don’t discuss finances in the right way, at the right time, or in the right manner on too many occasions. I’ve never one to be too worried about finances. I guess that speaks to the fact that I’ve been very fortunate for this not to be a major constraint in my family growing up. At the same time, it’s something I’ve always been aware of. Budgeting has been a new thing for me though. I’ve always tracked my spending, paid off any credit card at the end of each month without carrying a balance or paying interest but I felt like things were having the potential to get out of hand. With a few years of a career under my belt, a mortgage, and many pressures to do this or that…I decided it was time to have a better understanding of where my monies were really going each month so I could be more intentional and hopefully live more fully with joy…not just today but for the tomorrows.

So, I started down the course of budgeting. I had to figure out what that meant for me. How I was going to define it. After 5 uncomfortable months, I can finally say that budgeting has become delightful. Never would I have thought those words would come out of my mouth. This month, marks a few months in with my cash budgeting system. I’ve indoctrinated myself whole heartedly with the teachings of my dad, Dave Ramsey, and Robert Kiyosaki.

Let’s be honest. It hasn’t been easy. Spending is sone of those things that has some automaticity to it. You see a store. Stop. Walk in. Pick something up. Whip out the plastic. Done. It can happen with minimal thought. That’s scary. Especially at the end of a work day when my inhibition may not be as good as it would be at other times.

Shopping with cash makes me think about exactly what I’m carrying and what purchases I’m preparing to make. If I make that stop, do I have the money to buy what I’d be going in for. Would buying that bring me happiness today and tomorrow? Carrying cash has come in handy. You can get out of a restaurant faster and pay back friends easier (sorry guys…haven’t bought into the whole venmo thing yet). Carry cash has also been awkward. First of all, some cashiers struggle to count change. I’m getting better at my money math. Second of all, if I’m getting things from different categories (enter Costco), I’ve learned to prepare my cash somewhat while I’m in line so I don’t take too long at the register. And finally, I always ask for a receipt. I keep them in my wallet and write down everything I spent on my monthly log. Some people give you the oddest look when you actually ask for your receipt. Oh you want your $1.06 McDonald’s Diet Coke reciept? Why yes I do.

I still carry my credit cards. They’re sitting right next to my cash…but I don’t use them…unless I’m buying gas or purchasing something online. Gas is just in my budget. I travel for work. I don’t really worry to much about gas and it’s factored in as a purchase that I don’t draw cash out for. Purchasing things online is challenging but I think I’ve finally figured out the trick!!! Don’t buy things on Amazon at the end of the day. When you’re in bed…don’t make purchases. Again, you’re not thinking clearly. Put it in your cart and purchase it in the morning if its still a priority.

Lastly, give yourself some slack. There are some categories I’ve learned I just need to own. For example, I really like to buy books. I love to read and books are important to me. So…I have a book budget. Eating out is a very social thing at my age and with my friends. I do my grocery money and my eating out money separately. If I go over my eating out allotment, the money comes out of my grocery money. That way…if it happens to be one of those months where I get together a lot with friends for dinner…then I’m having to be careful about what I eat the rest of the time. And finally…give yourself some blow money. Things will always come up that you just can’t anticipate budgeting for. Give yourself the opportunity to have fun. I don’t want to not “live” just because I’m on a budget.

And one more tip…don’t forget to pay yourself! I keep a list on the top of my planner of the accounts I need to allot money to each month as some of my earnings are variable. Some things have set amounts and other things have variable amounts. They’re on my radar and I pay attention to them.

The things that have our attention must have our intention engaged.

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