For the next 26 weeks I will be sharing a different way you can become healthier in your daily life. Some of these suggestions have to do with food or exercise, others have to do with lifestyle changes, but all of them are practical and relatively easy to execute. You may already be practicing some of these habits, but hopefully you’ll be inspired by at least one or two new ideas you can begin to implement.
Use a Budget
Did you know that you’ve likely already spent money today (whether directly or indirectly)? Did you turn on a light? Is your furnace on? Have you driven anywhere, yet? Have you flushed the toilet, brushed your teeth, taken a shower, or used your kitchen faucet? All of these things cost money, though we often do them without second thought.
Here’s another question for you: have you ever used a budget before? Most people groan when they hear the word “budget”, but perhaps creating one has become misunderstood. There are SO many benefits to making and maintaining a weekly or monthly budget.
CREATING A BUDGET REDUCES STRESS
I think we’ve all experienced tight finances at one time or another. Money is one of the biggest issues couples fight over. Husbands feel the pressure of having to provide enough for the family. Wives feel the pressure of keeping the grocery bill as low as possible. And then there are always unforeseen expenses.
For many months my husband and I would begin to build up our savings and over and over a new issue arose with our vehicle or we had to put it toward unexpected medical costs. It felt like we weren’t getting anywhere, but in reality, if we hadn’t kept such a tight budget we would have been forced to go into debt to pay for these unforeseen events. Saving now ensures you will have far less stress when those unexpected costs creep up on you.
CREATING A BUDGET INCREASES SAVINGS
The first month my husband and I made and stuck to a budget, we saved over $600! We were amazed. For us it has been a bit trickier sticking to a budget because my husband gets paid on commission and my own hours at work fluctuate from week to week. But if we can make it work, so can you! The key, as Dave Ramsey so aptly puts it, is to tell your money where to go through a budget rather than wondering where the money went by the end of the month.
CREATING A BUDGET HELPS TACKLE DEBT
Do you feel like you’re drowning in debt? You’re not alone. According to the American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics, the average American household carrying debt has over $15,000 in credit card debt! That’s the average! If you are in this boat, I greatly encourage you to read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It is filled with encouraging stories of individuals and familes who were way over their heads in debt and who achieved financial freedom after many years of careful budgeting. (Some of these familes had over $75,000 of debt that they completely paid off after much hard work!) You can do it, too!
PRACTICAL EXERCISES TO GET STARTED
Before you create your budget, write down 2 BIG financial goals you want to reach in your lifetime.
Next, identify 2 smalls steps you can can do TODAY to move closer to achieving your BIG goal.
Another helpful activity to do before creating a budget is to look at your “cash flow”- how much money you receive and spend- over the next week.
|Income (+ $)||Spending (- $)|
Use a similar chart to this one to keep track of your incoming money and your expenses for the week. How much did you have left over at the end of the week?
Tracking your money like the above example is meaningless without a plan. A budget is a plan for managing your money over a given period of time. It helps to steer you toward meeting your financial goals (remember the BIG goals I had you write out earlier?).
A SAMPLE BUDGET
|Gross Monthly Income (GMI)||Amount||GMI Total|
|Bills & Expenses||Description||Amount||Paid||Due|
|Total Income =|
|Total Expenses =|
|Extra to Debit =|
|Extra to Savings =|
THE ENVELOPE SYSTEM
Something I have been trying in order to better stick to my budget is the evelope system of spending. I will briefly describe it to you.
1. Make or purchase envelopes and label them with each spending category of your budget (i.e. food, gas, entertainment, etc.).
2. Record the budgeted dollar amount for each category on the appropriate envelope.
3. When you receive a paycheck, place the allotted amount of cash in each envelope.
4. Then, when you need to spend money, take the cash from the appropriate envelope and use only what is available.
5. When you run out of cash for a particular spending category, you are done spending money on that particular category for the rest of the month.
For example, my current grocery budget for my husband and I is $200 a month or $50 a week. So I would take an envelope, label it “Groceries,” write $200/month in the corner, and place $200 cash in the envelope when our first paycheck of the month arrives. Every time I go to the grocery store I would take the grocery envelope with me and only spend the cash from that particular evelope. When I run out of cash for that category, I am done spending money on groceries for the rest of the month.
This takes self-control and planning ahead. Knowing you only have a certain amount of money to spend for the whole month on groceries holds you accountable to spend money only on what you really need. You often think twice before making purchases rather than mindlessly buying another bag of chips simply because they are on sale. When you merely use a credit or debit card, it’s far easier to spend money that you shouldn’t. Seeing the dwindling cash in your envelope makes you far more aware of your spending habits.
How does keeping a budget help your family? Do you have any other suggestions on how to save money, reduce stress, and tackle debt? I’d love to hear about them!