If you have read the post “God Moments: Expectations” you already know a little of our story with finances. This financial series will give you a look into our lives as we battle our financial and debt issues. You will not only take a personal journey with us, but you will learn tips that you can use to help your family rise above your financial status. Welcome to Week 2!
Alright, guys! Are you ready to jump in? Are you committed to changing your finances and changing your life? I ask this because, as you could see from our story last week, we have been through this journey time and time again. We hadn’t been taking it seriously. We started with a budget, we cut up our credit cards, but then, we stopped trying. We never ended up getting to the second step because we weren’t passionate about change anymore. But we decided as a team that we are done. We are done with letting debt control our lives and keep us in constant stress. We are ready for freedom!
This week we are starting to take control of our money. We are looking at Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps, and starting our journey. This series isn’t so much about Dave Ramsey’s program as it is what we are learning along the way. I am trying to incorporate techniques for you to use to put into your financial plan (whether you are using Dave’s program or not) in order to set you up for better control over your money.
Hubby and I are following Dave’s plan because we feel it has been the most helpful and realistic financial plan that we have found, so you will hear him mentioned a lot. I would definitely recommend buying the Financial Peace program, getting one of his financial books from the library, or even taking a class though because you will be more prepared with what to do with your money after you have begun to save it! If you don’t want Dave Ramsey, find another plan (or create your own) for where you want your money to eventually go.
Where is your money actually going?
Before we even jump into the Baby Steps, we need to know where our money is currently going and know where we want it to go. This step is bouncing off of the earlier post about sitting down with your partner and making a plan for your money. If you don’t know and plan where you want your money to go, it will stand still. If you don’t follow your plan, your money won’t go where you want it to eventually go. This is what happened to us in the past. We had a vague idea of where we wanted our money to be after so many years, but we didn’t make a specific plan and follow that plan to make it happen.
To keep or not to keep
To understand where your money is currently going, sit down with the list of bills I had you make last week (Monthly Spending Template form is in the resources below). First, are you making all of the payments you need to be making? Are all of your bills getting paid on time? Are there any bills consistently being missed? Whether the answer is yes or no, prioritize your list. Put your most important bills at the top and least important at the bottom.
If you are not making all of your payments on time, look at the bottom of the list and cancel services and items you do not absolutely need every month. This could be cable, Hulu/Netflix, internet, an expensive phone plan, etc. The goal here is to stop the bleeding. Look at the other services in your list, and see if there are any that you can lower payments on. If you have student loans, consider being placed on a payment plan in order to pay amounts that fit into your actual income level. Yes, we want to pay these off, but the first step is to make sure you can pay all of your bills each month and none of them go to your friendly collection agency.
If you are able to make your payments each month, woohoo to you! Now, again, find the services that you don’t absolutely need, cancel them, and begin putting away money for Baby Step 1: $1000 Emergency Fund. But before you dive right in, let’s look at the next step.
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
Let’s budget, baby!
After you have identified all of your necessary bills for the month, make a budget. Every month on the same day, sit down with your hubby and fill out your monthly budget sheet. We use the budget forms that come from the Financial Peace Program, but there are many free alternatives out there. At the bottom of this article, I have provided some free resources for you to create your own Family Budget Binder! Woot! Don’t you just love organization?
Set up a Family Budget Binder
Keep all of your financial forms in a binder so that you can keep your information organized and can see your progress. It’s kind of like a food diary in the sense that you can see when you are eating too much and notice any problems that tend to sneak up on you. A budget is a way that you can see what will happen with your money each month, and you can make the decision as to where your money goes. Plus, you will get to make a cute little binder which will house all of the items that tend to lie around on the table, and by organizing your financial forms, you will be demonstrating how serious you are about getting your finances under control this time!
This is one of the areas that hubby and I struggle with. It is difficult when you have financial difficulties to see where your money is going. When you see that number getting smaller and smaller, working towards financial security can feel overwhelming. But here is what hubby and I have noticed. We have both felt God leading us to budget every month. When we have budgeted, even if the number is negative, we are aware of what is happening. We still choose to tithe because God promises to provide for us if we give him 10% back. We have learned that by keeping God in the middle and a part of our finances that 1) We aren’t doing it alone, and 2) God has blessed us with our finances.
20 “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
Get prepared by funding your emergencies
When you are absolutely ready and have some extra bucks, start building your Emergency Fund. For more information, about building an Emergency Fund, check out Dave Ramsey’s program. This fund is for emergencies…..obviously. Emergencies are not shoes that just went on sale or an “Oops, we forgot to pay this bill” moment. Your bill list should have made it very clear where your money is going.
If you have some wiggle room when you are done with your budget, put all extra money into a separate savings account meant for an Emergency Fund that can be take out easily if needed. This savings account doesn’t have to make much interest. The goal here is to make sure you can get your money out as soon as you need it. Don’t use your typical savings account because it can be very tempting to have any money from your checking account roll over into your savings. You need to have a clear boundary. You need to protect this Emergency Fund.
Lastly, if you don’t have the money for an Emergency Fund yet, find ways to make some extra money so you can start building on this step. I am a stay-at-home mom, and it could be very easy for me to go back to work and start saving up for this. Because hubby and I have decided that it is important for our family for me to be at home, I have looked into making some money in other ways. These are very small amounts of income, but it is at least working us towards our goals and allowing us to live the life we are comfortable with. Next week I will tell you all of the ways I have made money from home, and various services you can look into in order to save towards your Emergency Fund!
Well, that’s it for our first steps! Some of you may need to stay here for a bit building that emergency fund, but don’t worry because the next few articles for this series will be talking about how to save money and make money this holiday season! Come back next week for more!
I am in absolutely no way affiliated with Dave Ramsey. I just love his products and his advice. This series will talk a lot about his practices because Hubby and I try to follow his advice. I am not getting paid when I mention his products, but we have found his steps to work in the past so I feel obligated to share them with you. There will also be tips and suggestions from other financial advisers throughout the readings because I like to research various methods to accomplish my goals. The entirety of what you are reading are based on our family’s experience attempting to relieve our financial burden. Just wanted to give you a heads up that there is no propriety gain coming from any of the authors that I choose to acknowledge.
Here are some great resources to help you create a beautiful Family Budget Binder!
Free Printable Budget Sheet from Printable Crush
25 Free Budgeting Printables from A Cultivated Next
Free Financial Printable Planner from Blessed Beyond A Doubt
Budget Binder Covers from Legos & Leftovers
*including Monthly Spending Template