Happy Friday friends!! Continuing forward with Financially Free Friday for my first post of September. Diving into budgeting and I know you are all sorts of excited!
As of last time, we had established what it means to take responsibility for your debt. Once that’s done, it’s time to get to the fun stuff! (Well, as much fun as you can have when getting out of debt/making a budget.) Now, we need to start setting a budget, plan some savings goals, and find ways to “make your money work for you.” (To quote the one and only, Dave Ramsey.)
When I first started designing a budget with my financial guru/advisor, Saraa, she was pulling from many different money management ideas and making them fit for what I needed. For instance, there were parts taken from Dave Ramsey, pieces taken from books she may have read, and even ideas that she/we came up with. Though a challenging, often frustrating task, the end result of having a set plan makes it all worth it. These were some of the steps we took in getting there. (Also, as of now, I’m choosing not to use exact numbers from my personal budget. However, that could change down the road.)
1. Gather supplies, documents, numbers, etc. – We went the old-school route with sharpies and construction paper. I was a server at the time so I often had lots of cash in envelopes that I was using as my savings system. She picked up a nifty contraption for organizing my tips. The dollar store has a plethora of items you can use! You may need to get creative here and there.
2. Dig up those digits – I mean everything. Every student loan, car loan, credit card, checking and savings account balances. Go through your bank statements for the past 2 – 3 months and total up what you spent your money on. Or, you may already track that through an app such as Mint. I assure you, it will blow your mind. I couldn’t believe the money I was wasting on bars, restaurants, and even shopping on occasion. (I’m not a huge shopper but I am a wino/foodie so that was where a lot of my money ended up going.) I remember thinking, “I could have been putting all of that towards debt or savings goals but I wasted it on that??” It’s a real eye-opener and while your initial reaction may be to hide under your table due to feelings of regret or shame, do not resort to that. That’s why you’re doing this right? To have a say in where your money goes! So, no judgement during this step.
3. Start building your plan – You have the numbers. Get it all down on paper so you have something to go off of. Mine is broken into 3 parts:
- Monthly bills/budget – This is a list of all my bills, amounts due, and their due dates. Sounds really simple right? Because it is. But, it will come in handy when you start budgeting each month and gives you an idea of what you need to have in your checking account. On the other side of this list is the total I need each month to pay my bills, along with what I set aside for living expenses.
- Total debt – This is just a simple list of my beginning balances for each account/lender I owe money to. It’s good to look at while you’re making progress so you can see how far you’ve come!
- Savings goals – This is the fun part! I think this is soooo important. Especially, if you’re like me and like saving up for trips/experiences/rewards, whatever it may be. Having a substantial amount of debt can be mentally draining and while some people want to hone in on that and buckle down for “X” amount of years to pay it off, I am the opposite. Yes, I want to attack my debt with everything I can, but I also need to do things for me in the meantime, even if I’m only saving up a little bit. Some examples might be travel experiences (near or far), a new tattoo, or hobbies such as yoga classes. Also, it is not such a crazy idea to “reward” yourself after paying off one of your debts.
4. Watch your money work – You’re going to struggle with this at first. You might overspend or budget incorrectly. This part is about finding what works for you and that takes some time, patience, and self-love. You need to give yourself at least 3 months to adjust to your new lifestyle. But, don’t give up! This is when it’s super important to have an “accountability partner.” Your partner can be a friend, family member, basically anybody you trust that will check on your progress and make sure you’re sticking to your financial goals. (This is also the person you call crying when you feel overwhelmed, anxious, and/or downright depressed about this momentous task in front of you.) You may not notice a change right away, but once you start rolling and making progress, you won’t want to quit.
The biggest takeaway I’ve had in the three months that I’ve been on a budget and working towards getting out of debt is how my relationship with money has changed. I view it so differently than I did even four months ago and for that, I will be forever grateful. I now find happiness in moments with people I love, rather than in material objects or experiences I don’t wish to pursue. I make wiser financial decisions since I have a set budget each month and have found my creativity increased in all aspects of life.
The formula for debt in my situation looks a little something like this:
Stubborn/independent personality + Youthful wishing + Lack of financial guidance = Owing too much
But, what if I rewrote it to look something like this?
Owing too much + Wanting to change my situation + Creating a plan to make it happen = A renewed outlook on life and finances
Now, it’s your turn. I urge you. No, in fact, I dare you. Get out there and rewrite.