AND HOW SPENDING IMPROVED MY MARRIAGE
How A Budget Set Me Free
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I live on a budget. But living on a budget is not a punishment. I live on a spending plan. But, it never feels like it restricts my spending. On the contrary, my budget has set me and my family free! How? You ask. I’m so glad you did.
As a rather vain woman, I am just as much a sucker for a new product as the next person. As a wife, I am beholden to work as a team with someone else to make financial decisions. And, as a mother, I am conscious of my saving and spending patterns as I plan for emergencies, travel, college, weddings, and grandchildren.
Every single one of these impulse purchases, financial goals, and incidental plans are in my budget. New purse, lunch out, European travel. They are all there in my budget.
You see, I believe that “budget” is more frequently used as a dirty word. When it should be revered as the method and means to set someone free.
You might use budget to describe someone of limited means, of want, or who has fallen on hard times. You probably don’t think of a budget as setting you free.
But, I say that every single person should live on a budget, and they would be happier and freer because of it!
WHAT IS A BUDGET?
Dave Ramsey says that a budget is a written plan that gives a purpose to every single dollar before the month begins.
Rob West and Steve Moore say that a budget is a spending plan.
At any rate, a budget is a way for you to tell your money what to do. If you are married, it is a way for you and your spouse to get on the same page. Get on the same page about your spending habits, goals, and dreams!
Together you become the curators of your own future instead of checking the account at the end of the month and wondering where it all went.
For me, budgets are not a matter of restricting our spending but of achieving our dreams. Once my husband and I got on the same page about our long-term goals and our expected big expenses, we worked backwards to achieve them.
BUDGETING SET ME FREE BY GETTING ME OUT OF DEBT
Having a budget freed me from debt.
When we moved into our new home, we had a child, one on the way, and plenty of transition payments to make. At that point, I was sick and tired of knowing that we earned plenty of money but had nothing to show for it. We had nothing in the bank and a mountain of loans.
After a medical catastrophe (read more here), law school, a rough transition to working life, and a new roof, we managed to accumulate $54,000 in debt. Our modest Midwest salaries were enough to chip away at the debt and still live comfortably. But, I always went to sleep feeling the weight of the debt pressing in on me.
I had enough. So, finally, I decided to go scorched earth. I swapped my running playlist for Dave Ramsey podcasts. I trashed my small group curriculum for money lessons. And, I ditched my guilty-pleasure reading for financial books.
I started planning every single dollar before the month began.
I controlled our grocery budget; I eliminated all of my fun spending, and I found support and inspiration wherever I could.
We gained a little bit of traction. Then we got a little bit of a raise, a bonus, a tax return, and we committed those to the debt. We kept going and cut our debt in half in only twelve months even with 2 little ones, a house, and a part-time income.
But, one day, our budget really gained steam and changed the trajectory of our financial future. And, it wasn’t because we got a big raise or won the lottery.
HOW BUDGETING WITH MY HUSBAND SET OUR FAMILY FREE
Despite my resolve, my enthusiasm, and my energy, my husband wasn’t 100% on board with my plans, and I wasn’t 100% on board with his. You see, I was making some very serious mistakes when it came to budgeting. I was writing everything down on my budget; I was managing the funds; I was cutting expenses and setting goals.
I was doing it…alone.
I had already been planning my spending on budget planners for years. I talked to my husband incessantly about goals, items we could cut, and how we could make extra money. But, we weren’t really on the same page.
For me it was very simple to cut out lunches at work and tv subscription services, which I saw as unnecessary luxuries. I, on the other hand, always justified items for our children and home décor, but he saw those as wastes.
However, one day, we both listed our biggest financial goals for the next 10 years together. Then, we both proposed budget changes. And, with a little give and take, we were able to meet on a frugal and reasonable budget that would free up a lot of margin for dreaming.
No longer were we squabbling over grocery store overages, Wednesday lunch with buddies, or coffee Fridays. We were truly on the same page.
And, within 9 months, we had paid off all of the remaining debt.
Getting on the same page increased our momentum even though my budget reflected more spending. Once both of us were on fire, we were able to accomplish so much more than I was able to accomplish alone.
YOU CAN DO IT TOO
Have a dream meeting (thanks, Chris Hogan), a budget meeting (thanks, Dave Ramsey), and stop being such a nerd. You might find that you are more likely to achieve your dreams by spending together than when you squeeze every last drop out of every last penny.
A dream meeting is a time that you and your spouse sit together to decide where you want to be, what you want to do, and how you want to get there. A budget meeting is a monthly meeting where you and your spouse decide how to spend your money before the month begins. And, together, those two meetings allowed us to dream together and helped me let go.
THE BIGGEST BUDGETING ADJUSTMENT THAT RADICALLY ACCELERATED OUR DEBT FREE JOURNEY
The strangest adjustment that I made that single-handedly accelerated our debt free journey was to spend more money. What?
Do you constantly fight with your spouse that one of you spends outside of the budget on impulse purchases? I was holding so tightly to $20-$30 per week that we would often fall off the wagon and spend an extra $50.
When we decided to start using fun money each week without guilt as part of our budget, we were able to give in to a small amount of impulse purchases, lunch with friends, the Starbucks line, or accumulate fun money for big purchases. You might find that so many other purchases do not tempt you if you determine in advance how much you are willing to spend during the week.
We had held so tightly to a few dollars that we would binge and ruin the entire plan in one week.
Adding fun money into the budget truly improved our marriage and accelerated our debt payments. It may also release you from guilt surrounding your little purchases on yourself or your kids.
HOW OUR BUDGET ALLOWS US TO DREAM BIGGER
On our current path, we are planning for a very comfortable retirement, a paid off house before we are 40, an international adoption, and some serious fun along the way. By cutting huge amounts of debt out of our lives and committing to a budget TOGETHER, stress about money in our house has dramatically reduced. Best of all, we are loving every minute of it rather than fighting about it.
Now, saving money is a game! Some weeks my husband will transfer hundreds of extra dollars into our savings account just to see if we can keep it there and cut more from our budget. Now that we both have ownership in our budget and our future, we are getting there much faster!
START YOUR BUDGET NOW AS A WAY TO FIND FREEDOM FROM DEBT AND PEACE IN YOUR MARRIAGE
Having a budget can set you free from debt, from arguments in your marriage, and from the fear and worry that can paralyze you when thinking about your future. Whether you will ever retire. How to pay for your kids’ college. How you will make your next payment.
Reaching our dreams will now never be a factor of our income but instead a factor of how much we want it. How much we are willing to plan for it. And, whether we are on the same page in advance every month.
Now, achieving our wildest adventures is not just a matter of if but a matter of when. And, the only reason that is true is because we use a budget to set our entire lives free.
To read more about ways to save hundreds of dollars a month, click here.