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Budgeting 101 – Part 1

Budgeting… one of those
words which conjures up dreadful pictures of living in a straitjacket,
not being able to ever do anything fun or spontaneous, and always
having to worry about pinching pennies.

One of the purposes of
this series is to debunk the former myths that many have regarding the
confinement and limitations a budget puts on a person and to show you
how you not only need to live
on a budget, you just plain can’t afford to live without one… unless,
that is, you decide want to never be able to get ahead, or never be
able to enjoy saving up and
paying cash for things you need or want (yes, your real, very own,
hard-earned dollars and cents!), unless you really aren’t all that keen
on living on less so that you can save more, invest more, splurge
sometimes, and–most importantly–to be able to give more.

So, I want you all to begin this series by committing to set aside your many excuses for why a budget won’t work for you. Oftentimes, the excuses are just really manifestations of laziness or selfishness.
You don’t want to live on a budget, you don’t want to wait and save up
to pay cash for something when you can afford it, so you’ll come up
with a nice list of reasons why you are the world’s exception in the
case of living on a budget.

I hope that by the end of this series you not only want to live on a budget, you will be fired up and excited about the possibilities that lie before you if you’re willing to put forth a little effort to make your money work for you.

am I such a big proponent of living on a budget? Because I know that
were it not for our budget and the grace of God, we would very likely
be up to our eyeballs in debt right now, barely making ends meet–just
like pretty much all the rest of our law school friends are. We
wouldn’t be living comfortably below our means, we wouldn’t have
an emergency fund of six months’ expenses in the bank, and we certainly wouldn’t be on a savings plan to pay cash for a home in a few years.

we’re frugal (I came into the marriage frugal, my husband has learned
to be out of necessity!), but we would be miles behind where we are now
without a written budget. I know this because we’ve done the math and
we know without a doubt that having a written budget, giving every
dollar a name, and putting it on paper, on purpose (to quote a few Dave Ramsey lines) has saved us literally thousands of dollars over the last five years.

written game plan for our finances enabled us to get through law school
debt-free living on around $1000 per month, it enabled us to weather
over three months of my husband’s unemployment last year without
us having to touch our savings, and it is currently enabling us to live on less than we make so we can save more and give more.

Think you might be interested in joining us on this budgeting adventure to see what incredible things it could do for your finances?
Well, stick around because in our next installment, I’ll be sharing
about how we got started on this journey and how you can too!

Originally published in 2007.

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  • Sunnie in NC says:

    Ohhhhh I can’t wait!!! Bring it on!!!
    Single parent here with a teenager; I am interested in saving every penny I can!!

  • I need to get my hubby to read this series. I practically forced him to read Dave Ramsey, but he isn’t much of a reader anyways. He prefers me to outline whatever I read for him. Read that as he is lazy about reading. Anyways, I know this was a re-post, but Crystal you always post something that I needed to read at just that moment. It is starting to creep me out. 🙂 But it’s so awesome so keep it coming.

  • Jeanine Brown says:

    This is absolutely fantastic!!! I can’t wait to start my budget, which I have been meaning to do, with your help! Thanks so much for all your postings and for helping me become more frugal!
    Thanks again!

  • Deborah says:

    I’m really looking forward to this series. I’ve been trying to budget but end up getting frustrated and feeling defeated and then I quit. Here’s to trying again!!

  • Dona says:

    My husband has finally caught onto the budgeting bug–he now prints up biweekly reports from our quicken and shows them to me so we see if we are still on track! I love it!

    Its been funny, we have kept our personal spending on budget, but other unforseen things have stepped in–without the budget in place those things in the past would have likely caused us to dip into our scrimpy savings.

    I am concerned about Christmas though–my family had a big get together recently and they are drawing names this year (some relatives are in that are not normally here) so this was added an additional 4 people for us to buy for to our list. Even though I sort of let people know that I did not want to be in the list–it was sort of pushed on me because of us having kids. We do not spend a lot on our kids compared to most people, so I am very limiting, but even setting aside 25 a person can add up quite quickly!

    So I hope you can find time Crystal—to share on your budgeting– tips for budgeting for Christmas. With all your siblings–do you draw names, buy for them all–how do you budget for Christmas?

  • laura says:

    A written budget is a big, big deal. We don’t do it precisely the way Dave Ramsey does, but our process is similar. We also use an envelope system. I have this nifty red wallet I got at Goodwill. It has lots of different pockets. One is for grocery/household money, one is clothing money, one is the fund to get things for our toddler. We put the $$ in at the beginning of the month, and that’s it! When the money is gone, stop spending!

  • Rach says:

    We budget and I just learned how to coupon properly. I LOVE it!

    Now, if I could just get my ever-loving house clean and KEEP it that way!

    Just posted about that… 🙂

  • Denise says:

    I’m game to follow along. I am familiar with Dave’s books too. Still struggling to get organized with each month’s bills. We don’t have any credit cards, but have one ‘stupid’ personal loan that we are crumbling away at. Looking forward to the remainder of these posts.

  • I’m so glad your doing this! I need a pep talk, something to keep me going! We have a group of teens going through the homeschool version of Financial Peace and that has really helped to keep us (me especially) striving towards our goal, since I’m the one doing 90% of the spending.

  • Trixie says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more. Budgets (or spending plans) really do make your life easier! Its really amazing how excited people get about a budget once they see it is practice and experience the freedom it brings.

    I recently wrote a little series on how we manage our finances and budgeting and am including a link in case anyone is interested.

    Take Care,


  • So timely for us. I’ve been trying to do here and there what I can to cut back on spending and have come to realize that I absolutely must cut down and whittle away at my spending and a budget is absolutely the way to do it. 🙂

  • Jesabella says:

    I can’t wait to read this! We are trying to set up a budget now and recently started the Dave Ramsey way of living. I need to educated though. I have been trying to start this and I am a little clueless. Thank You Thank You Thank You for starting this series!

  • I LOVE budgeting!! IT has really saved our finances! I actually just did a series of posts on home budgeting with worksheets for people to print out on my website: Heart of a Servant! I hope it will help people learn how to create a simple and use-able budget!! Thanks for sharing this Crystal!!

    Carrie @ Heart of a Servant

  • I am with Carrie, I LOVE budgeting as well. I have so much fun creating our monthly budgets and then doing all I can to make sure our family expenses fit into. Its a game for me. And I too, am currently about to put up a post regarding budgeting on my blog. However, it looks like I might just put a post that says “Go Read Money Saving Mom’s series on Budgeting!”
    You are such an inspiration to all of us who strive to biblically manage our homes!

  • Tara says:

    I am excited to read this series. I just finished reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and my husband and I have committed to using a budget for the first time. I thought it would be limiting but am finding that it really does bring a sense of freedom like one of the previous posters said!

  • Alissa says:

    Hi, and thanks for all of your great information. I started using the You Need A Budget software this month and I LOVE it. FINALLY my budget is making sense to me! Husby and I have been on the same page about money! I am so glad I found something that works because, indeed, I do need a budget. Also, since you are so very talented on making referral programs and whatnot work, he has a referral program, so if you look at his software and decide you like it I bet you’d do well with referrals 🙂 I visit your blog often, you do such a nice jobs with it.
    Thanks Again,

  • kelly says:

    I am so excited.. My daughter is going to be a new mother in Jan and I am trying to teacher how to coupon and this will be great for both of us to get started at the same time.

  • Sherri says:

    A budget is a great thing. That was the best advice we got as newlyweds. Fourteen years and only one argument over money (because it was a trip to be in a wedding that didn’t fit into one of our categories- and God came through with the money from another source!). When you plan to spend less than you make, you can build up a reserve fund, and then you have the flexability when unexpected things come up- and not stress!

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