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Fitting Hope Into Your Budget


Guest post by Lauren Bonk

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re part of an army. An enormous, world-wide army of people who want to be wise stewards of their money.

Each of us wields our own weapons: Some carry scissors to cut coupons, others have hawk-like eyes that can spot a deal a mile away. I, personally, arm myself with a budget.

There are symptoms that go hand-in-hand with a long battle. It’s amazing, but when we fight long and hard enough, it’s not uncommon to forget exactly what it is we’re fighting for. Fortunately, the antidote to our affliction can be found in a pretty simple word — hope.

Hope is essential, but requires maintenance and tending. That can be hard to pull off when you’re drowning in financial difficulties or setbacks. Our family has only been budgeting for six months, but it’s been long enough to learn some tricks to help keep our hope afloat.

1. Keep your goals visible.

Literally. Sure, you can say, “Hey, honey, remember, only a few more years of this and we’ll be in Greece!” Sometimes, though, words just don’t cut it. We have a “Greece Fund” piggy bank. Every time we drop in our change, we’re reminded of the vacation we can’t wait to take.

Ask yourself, “Why?” Why are you working so hard? Find your answer and make it tangible.

Are you working toward financial freedom? Try stenciling the word FREEDOM on something decorative and hanging it above your sink — or whatever it takes to give you a little dose of hope.

2. Allow rewards.

Anyone who’s worked in a thankless job knows how effective a reward can be. Rewards not only make you smile, but also give you a little taste of the ultimate goal.

What is the perfect reward for you? We allow for a “date night” column in our budget spreadsheet. I can’t begin to tell you how nice it is to indulge ourselves without worrying about our bank accounts.

Maybe ice cream, a new pair of shoes, or a long-awaited CD is what you need. No matter what you choose, rewarding yourself every once in awhile will be good for your morale (and your soul!).

3. Appreciate Progress.

This may be the most important one. It can be daunting to look at the big picture and sometimes we need to narrow our focus.

If you’ve only been budgeting for two weeks, don’t look at how far you have to go to reach your goals, look at how much progress you’ve made already. In this instance, the simple act of knowing exactly how much money you have in your account can be a huge accomplishment; I know it was for us.

We’re only human, friends, and we can’t accomplish all our goals in one day. Take a look at the progress you’ve made, and allow yourself to feel good about it.

Do you have any other great ideas for nurturing hope? Remember, we’re all fighting on the same team, and we’ve got to stick together.

Lauren Bonk is a certified baby wrangler, word enthusiast, and scatter-brain extraordinaire.  She owns fifteen copies of Wuthering Heights and happily resides with her family in Nebraska. Read about her budgeting endeavors, food obsession, and mostly-chipper musings at LaurenBonk.com.

photo credit

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43 Comments

  • It helps to have a good friend who is going through the same thing as you. My best friend from college turned me on to Dave Ramsey and my life has been forever changed. It is something my husband and I have done together, but it sure has helped to have a close friend to talk things over with!

  • Sandi says:

    Thank you so much I so needed to hear this today!!!

  • Amber says:

    Nice post. It’s one that caused me to visit Lauren’s blog. I love her writing… Even though, I’m a Jane Eyre gal. 😉

    • Lauren says:

      I’m totally with you on Jane Eyre! How excited are you for the movie? Anyway, I think my main obsession with WH has to do with a slight character crush on Heathcliff 🙂

  • Andrea says:

    I love this! We have been living like this for 4 years now and I feel we are finally able to breathe and soon reach our main goal.(although we will always live below our means, we learned it’s best that way) We had a lot of financial set backs, and employment lay off, huge debt from trying to keep our house (which we ended up having to short sale) but decided we needed to “start over” and downsized drastically. Husband got a great position though the pay was less then half we were used to, got rid of our new car and use our hunk o’ junk but paid off car til that wouldn’t last any longer and somehow we managed to pay off debt and save to get a new (to us) car we will have paid off very soon already, save and hope to buy a home next spring. It has been hard but like this article says we had allowed us to have “indulges” like going out to eat or dates or special but frugal family trips ever so often just to keep up our moral. It’s so tough to have such a tight budget where it almost seems impossible to pay off things or let alone save but it’s so rewarding when you find a way. Having control of where every dollar goes and having goals you actually start to feel are obtainable makes ever sacrifice worth it. I love reading articles or hearing stories of similar circumstances. Sometimes I feel like my husband and I are the only ones being to money contentious while everyone around us complains of never ending debt or being constantly broke yet does and buys so much more then we ever would.

    • Lauren says:

      What an awesome comment! I still find myself amazed at the way we handled our money before (basically, we DIDN’T handle it…) and at how much better things are now that we’ve started paying attention. Budgeters UNITE!

  • Amanda Hughes says:

    Would you be willing to share your budget spreadsheet? Or at least the template? My husband and I have hard time sticking to a budget and would love some help!

    • Sandra says:

      mint.com really works well for free.

    • Randi says:

      Dave Ramsey is a great resource for budget-type things. You can check out his website: http://www.daveramsey.com. My husband and I lead a class at our church awhile back – his Financial Peace University class – and it was extremely helpful. You can even find a class starting near you on the website.

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Amanda! I’d totally send you our spreadsheet, but my husband filled it with crazy formulas that I wouldn’t even begin to be able to explain to you…I did, however, do a quick, simple tutorial in a few of my previous blog posts:
      http://www.laurenbonk.com/blog/post/dollars-like-margaritas-and-cappuccinos
      The spreadsheet example is very simplistic, but that’s what my husband and I started out with, and we just built on it from there.
      I’ve got a few other money-posts in my “Never Ending Self-Improvement Section,” if you’re interested!
      I hope this was helpful! I’ve got no problem helping you a little more in-depth if you want to shoot me an email!
      Thanks for commenting!

  • Andrea says:

    and i mean money conscious not contentious….lame auto correct.:)

  • Angie says:

    A friend of mine recently encouraged me to start making a list of the fun things I’d like to do with my little family over the years (a “bucket list” per se)– we have a 2.5 year old, and one on the way. Some of the items on the list are BIG items like Disney, a week long Outer Banks vacation, etc, while others are simple like a day at an amusement park, dinner at a special location, camping trips. It felt very freeing to make this list, and have my husband add to it as well. We are a one-income family by choice, while I’m a SAHM and do Tastefully Simple on the side. There’s no room in our one-income budget for these fun things, but knowing that TS is providing my “fun money” and now having ideas of where that “fun money” will be going gives me tangible goals to work towards. Now I have a mindset of doing parties and taking orders and recruiting in order to do these certain things, rather than its “for a vacation someday” mentality. Its giving us that “hope” for someday, and someday may be coming sooner since I have a somewhat renewed vigor!

    • Lauren says:

      That’s so awesome! Lists are something that are VERY helpful to me…Be it long-term goals or simply household chores, I find that if I have a to-do or wish-list, I have a much easier time of accomplishing things. Thanks for commenting!

  • Anne says:

    Thank you. I have been very depressed about our financial situation. Something I that I do not see getting better anytime soon.

    • Anne,

      You are not the only one. There are many who, though super-frugal, are lacking in income. Some have none; others, like us, are making less than what we need to keep a roof over our heads and keep the water and lights on.

      I don’t have “fun money” or “blow money.” I don’t even have grocery money.

      I still think there are other rewards that come from doing all that we can do.

      We learn things. I think that is the thing that gives me the most personal satisfaction from frugality on a daily basis.

      When I got married, I could cook, but not bake. Now I make Rosemary Olive Oil Bread that my husband LOVES.
      I could sew a little, but not much. Now I can make clothes from curtains and old sheets (besides fabric), smock dresses, make pintucks, and add embroidery to lots of dresses. I’m much more confortable sewing. It took time, but because it was neccesary, I became better at it more quickly than I would have otherwise.
      I’ve learned a lot of new recipes. When you’re only cooking from your pantry and garden, you choose based on what you have. We’ve found a lot of favorites along the way. I never knew my children would like rice and bean burritos so much!

      I’ve learned to play some new games. A couple of simple card games and board games can be a really inexpensive way to have a date at home. You get to talk to your husband, and sometimes you get to win, too! 🙂 (Our current favorite is playing a card game called Hand and Foot).

      If you’re needing a little more enouragement, here’s mine.

    • Lauren says:

      Getting down about money is so hard… It’s pretty easy to feel hopeless when we feel alone and can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think, though, the fact that you are visiting this website means you’ve decided to turn the light on yourself. The Prudent Homemaker has it right by finding rewards without spending money… Forcing ourselves to find joy in the things we already have is something that is a necessity on our financial journeys. Good luck, and as a fellow budgeter, you can always shoot me an email if you need a little motivation.

  • Megan says:

    Thank you for writing this! I just recently had a complete meltdown over our lack of finances (which was compounded by other things in life). When I was finally able to pull myself together and really sort through the mess of what I was feeling, I realized it wasn’t our LACK of finances, it was that I had scrimped our budget down to the absolute minimum for survival. And I had to take time to remember WHY I did that. Could I loosen up things to buy those cute new cloth diapers, go on a vacation, or just go out to eat a few more time? Sure. But I also know I’ll be swimming in medical debt far longer and will never see our ultimate dream of living independently on our own ranch. Taking the time to re-outline the “vision” and my goals helped put me right back on track. Instead of seeing all the things I “can’t” have, I remind myself that saving money we don’t actually HAVE to spend is putting us that much closer to our dream life! It’s a rough road, and I’m sure all of us have our own meltdowns. Just be sure your reasons for saving are equal to your drive to do it!

    • Lauren says:

      Exactly! Do you already do cloth diapers, and simply want cute new ones? Or are you wanting to start using them all together? The initial costs are high, but the financial savings of cloth diapers are HUGE! I calculated how much we saved here:
      http://www.laurenbonk.com/blog/post/my-little-man-of-the-cloth-part-one
      Thanks for commenting!

      • Megan says:

        My 4yr-old is a bed wetter and one day I did the math and realized that I could buy enough materials to make him a week’s worth of washable “night night pants” for the same price as a SINGLE box of diapers. After realizing what kind of money I’d save using cloth, I decided to make my own diapers for baby #2 (who I was pregnant with). The ones I made worked great from birth to about 4 months, but now he’s just going through them too fast. I knew when I made them that I was going to need more eventually. Cute ones are always a plus, but my desire when I wrote this post was just for new diapers in general. I’d found a brand that was cheap (only $7 each and only a $.50 difference between solid colors and cute patterns!) and seemed comparable to more expensive brands, but without the funds to even give them a “test drive” I’ve been stuck making do with what I have. A friend blessed me with a gift and I bought 3 of them to test drive! I think I’ll be working a little “wiggle room” into our funds to purchase a few more. Having enough so I’m not washing diapers EVERY DAY will help prolong their longevity and give me a much needed break from trying to keep my current stash clean! I’m realizing that ALWAYS just making do can really put a damper on that “hope” you talked about, and I’m working to readjust the way I view our budget and how I meet goals.

        • Anna says:

          Hi Megan,
          If you are still interested in cloth diapers, send me an email. I have a whole set I used with my last child that I just haven’t gotten around to doing anything with and it would be nice to bless someone else with them. They are the MotherEase kind, one size adjustable and a bunch of insets. You can email me at cookies@krayola.net
          Anna

  • Amber Cullum says:

    Thank you. I needed this, as each time we mess up with the budget I get so discouraged. There is such little wiggle room, but I know if I keep setting it up and celebrating the small changes we are making it will be (and is) worth it.

    I am with Angie (above commenter) in that I am a SAHM by choice. I think some people think my husband must make tons of money, but no we just do less in order to keep me home. I do work one to three days a month (which is a blessing), but my husband and I need to become very focused on setting aside this money for something specific.

    I had to focus a lot on hope (regarding a different situation) a few weeks ago, but this applies. God’s Word provides such great words surrounding hope. Here I shared a few of those verses on some photos I took http://ambocullum.blogspot.com/2011/06/journey-of-faith-friday-hope.html

    • Cheri A. says:

      Amber,

      Thanks so much for sharing. I love that. I think I may have to do that for myself and print the pictures out.

  • jana says:

    we do all that you mention but my husband and i also nuture our hope by working through all of our debt payoff as a team. having someone who all in with you makes even the darkest day a little brighter.

  • Michele says:

    Found myself looking for the “like” button! Like this!

  • Cheryl says:

    I am very goal oriented–I need to see visually that it is making a difference. So the piggy bank idea is right up my alley.

  • Lauren,
    the three points that you’ve mentioned can be applied in so many areas in our life. Thanks for reminding them again.

  • Cheri A. says:

    Lauren,

    This is such a timely post for me to read. Thanks for sharing. I needed some hope today.

  • Lori says:

    Very well written and great advice!

  • Lacey Wilcox says:

    This was great stuff! I’ll probably come back to this a lot!!

  • Cheryl in ID says:

    Over 15 yrs ago, my husband and I (we had no kids, no house, crappy jobs, etc) sat together and wrote down goals we wanted to achieve such as get better jobs, buy house, have children, possibly adopt, live overseas, etc. Life went on and I forgot all about it. About 8 yrs later, I found it in a pile of papers and was shocked to see we HAD achieved many of those goals. I still have that single piece of paper and all we have left to achieve from that page is live overseas which we are in the process of working on now. I don’t recall taking specific actions but I think the fact we wrote the goals down got us subconsciously moving that direction.

    I recently heard a statement that only 3% of people who have goals actually write them down. Those are the people who are successful as they don’t let the failures detract them from their goals.

    • April D. says:

      My husband and I do this yearly, on New Year’s Eve. When we put it in writing it becomes so much more real. We do much better saving when we have a goal of where our money needs to go and should go. I agree with you that people should write them down.

  • Denise says:

    Amazing post – thanks so much! For those of you who are struggling, prayers!! We were there, for almost 5 years. We finally got the last consumer debt paid off 8 months ago (yay!) – and if you stay strong, you can do it to. Like another lady above, I’ve learned so much – sewing, repairing, doing without – even dandelion jelly lol! I thought things would magically change, when that last bill was paid, but they haven’t, we’re still on the same income, still have the same struggles, and even now it’s easy to get discouraged, esp when we look at our last (ever) bill – the mortgage. How to pay it off is daunting, but with God, and a lot of love and patience and making time to make memories, it will come! You’re finding out what you’re really made of – or finding a way to ‘remake’ yourself. Best wishes to all of you!

  • Mrs. Clouse says:

    Thanks, Lauren! You guys are doing great! LOVE reading your blog!!! Keep on writing! 😉

  • melissa says:

    I especially like #3. When I had a lot of weight to lose, it was easy to think of the small losses as insignificant. But when my loss got up to just 15 pounds after such a long time, and I still had many, MANY more pounds to go, I got really frustrated. I decided to find something that weighed about 15 pounds and carry it around the house for a few minutes. It was my cast iron pan. Let me tell you….that 15 pounds became very significant after I put it in perspective. Great article!

  • Crystal K says:

    Wonderful! I love your piggy bank idea! We will definately be creating one soon.

  • SharonMarie says:

    Thanks for sharing! It’s so true, it can be discouraging! For me, I do not scimp on good coffee. That’s my reward! I can scimp and do without many things, but only if I get my good cup of coffee in the morning!!

  • Maggie says:

    The word ‘baby wrangler’ made me laugh so hard. When I met some people that my husband works with, he joked that I was a professional baby wrangler. I sometimes think wrangling a wild animal might be easier than wrangling my two year old son 🙂 This was a great post–I love the part about rewarding yourself. We budget in date night about twice a month–once for a great, guilt-free dinner out and once for just a starbucks date. We used to be so bad about eating out all the time and constantly making starbucks stops and we used to always feel guilty after, so now we try to cut these things out of our budget as much as we can. But it’s nice having these two evenings a month to go out without the guilt. Great post!

    • Monica says:

      Love that too! I have one year old twins and a two year old. When my husband is home on the weekends with me, he calls it “herding cats!” 🙂

  • Tonya says:

    Save a little bit each week beginning now until Christmas to alleviate the stress from the January credit card bills. Slow and steady wins the race (tortoise and the hare). 🙂
    http://mrststhoughtsfromatitus2mom.blogspot.com/2010/09/93-days-until-christmas-setting-aside.html

  • Lindsey says:

    My husband and I have found that creating several savings accounts on Smarty Pig really helps keep us focusing on meeting our goals. We can separate all of our goals into separate accounts, and because it’s goal-oriented savings, it shows you how far you are in completing your goal. I love going online each month and watching the percentages increase.

  • TeamBonk says:

    Love your article … so very inspiring!!

    And LOVE your name … from another Bonk (up here in Canada!)

    Michelle

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