winning the battle of the budget

I really had no concept of money – except how to spend lots of it. Then marriage and a baby served me up a nice platter of reality that I am still chewing. Money doesn’t really grow on trees? It would be much cooler if it did.

I was excited, however, to be a newlywed, have a house and manage the finances. My husband set me up with this detailed Excel sheet and I actually thought, “Oh, how fun!”

Lord, bless the man who put me in charge of the finances.

I also got to start a new collection: receipts. It isn’t as fun as shoes.

It has been a long road of learning for me, and I still have to practice budgeting and making smarter financial decisions. But I am making progress. The biggest thing I continue to strive for is contentment, as well as the joy of living below your means instead of above them.

This is a difficult country to live in where materialism and money are pushed down your throat. You’re expected to have certain things and to spend, spend, spend. This is also a country where money is the greatest divider of marriages; finances are the number one topic of arguments.

Being better at budgeting does not only help our finances, but it also to safeguards our marriage. Learning contentment is about valuing relationships, including my relationship with God, above things.

There are always ways we can be wiser about finances, and there is no better time than now to do it with the holidays approaching (including Black Friday). This is the time of year I strap on my budgeting armor and head into battle – that is, without yelling, “Charge!”

The Budget

Make a budget and stick to it. I don’t know how anyone goes without one. Here is our system:

1. Sit down as a family and write down how much income you take in per month (advice: if married, stick to one income!); write down how much of that you would like to put into savings and other areas. Come up with a total checking account/spending account amount.

2. Now, take a look at where your money is spent (categories) and how much money is spent (budget). Gather receipts, bills and take a look at your bank statements. First write down what needs to be spent (such as groceries, rent/mortgage, utilities, gas, etc…) and then additional areas that can be cut if needed (such as gym membership, traveling, dining out, etc…)

3. Once you have all your categories lined out, you need to come up with the monthly spending amount for each category matching up to your total monthly spending income. This is where you take a deep breath, and really listen to each other. Your husband won’t understand why getting your hair done costs so much money, and you won’t understand why he is complaining about your hair when he spends three-times that amount on hunting.

However, each person needs to be able to make their case about why there should be such a category and how much is needed for it. Then, for the best part of marriage: compromise. Cut your hair fund down ten dollars and his hunting fund down ten dollars. See if it works. If it doesn’t – talk and make adjustments to the budget.

4. Plug it into an Excel or budget program. Make a column for each category with the bi-monthly and monthly amount listed, such as: Groceries (100) (200). Make the very bottom sum the entire column, and make an area for your total spending account with the sums of each column total. Here are some free budgeting programs:

5. Each paycheck (if paid bi-monthly), enter those bi-monthly amounts into the columns; collect those receipts and also put those into the corresponding column.

6. If you are spending over budget, maybe it is time for the envelope system. Take each column’s bi-monthly or monthly totals, and take out cash. Stick them in a category-titled envelope. Say “bye-bye” to plastic and get back to paper.

To see a visual example, visit here:

The Newlyweds’ Guide to Common Money Myths adapted from Mary Hunt’s Debt-Proof Living

Myth: Double the income, half the expenses. This is what I call newlywed fuzzy math: Merging your lives and incomes into one household is the equivalent of getting a raise. Don’t believe that, not for a second. Counter: Start out living on only one income and save the rest. This will require going against everything the culture insists you deserve, but it will allow you to move seamlessly into parenthood. When that day comes, you’ll have an impressive savings account and options.

Myth: There’s stuff we can’t live without. No, there isn’t. But it will be easy to convince yourselves that you absolutely must have matching furniture, new cars, and all kinds of gadgets and services to make your lives easier and to keep your with your friends. Counter: Make a pact that you will never go into debt for “stuff.” Period.

Myth: If we qualify, we can afford it. Whether it’s a new credit card of a new nothing-down, interest only mortgage for a house, that in your hearts you know you cannot afford, never allow your ability to qualify be the determining factor. If you cannot pay the entire credit-card balance in full each month, you cannot afford it. If the mortgage payment, plus insurance, taxes and maintenance is more than 30 percent of your net income, you can’t afford it.


2 thoughts on “winning the battle of the budget

  1. Great advice!! We had a couple council us in budgeting before we got married with the same concepts you talked about. Best decision ever. We didn’t however only use one income when I was working sure wish we had.

  2. Wow…is this MY daugther giving advice on budgeting? You have come a long way in just a few years. If you can get your mother to this point, I would be really impressed. Love Ya, Dad

comments welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s