Guest post from Leanne of Cooking With the Johstons
When I was a teenager, my parents divorced and I saw first-hand that the number one cause for divorce is money problems. As a young adult, I did what I knew and overspent.
At 24, I overdrew my checking account for the umpteenth time. What was different this time was that I had also gone over my limit on all four of my credit cards. I had no cash, no savings, and no safety net. While I’d spent years overspending and overdrawing, this was rock bottom.
Because of that experience, I created a budget. It was the first time I saw on paper that I was spending far more than I was earning and had absolutely nothing to show for it but a car payment, credit cards, and student loans.
Shortly thereafter, I discovered the Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps. The concept of living below your means was completely foreign to me. I started to live differently. For the first time in my life, I had peace about money and my future.
Two years later, when I met my husband, I was well on track of being debt free within the year. When we married, my debt turned to our debt. Combined we had $117,000 and were making $40,000 a year; however, we had peace and a plan because we had a budget.
A budget saved our marriage before it even started — here’s why:
- Having a budget means having a plan — a budget frees us to tell our money what to do each month. We have a plan for every dollar that we earn. We have lots of dreams for the future and know we will achieve them because we have a plan.
- Having a budget means having peace — things will happen outside of your budget. Children get sick, windows break, and cars break down. A budget takes the emergency out of these situations. It brings peace into the financial inconveniences of life.
- Having a budget will change your future — without a plan, you will wander aimlessly. Without a budget, you will spend aimlessly with nothing to show for your efforts. A budget puts effort behind dreams.
- Having a budget helps you stay on the same page with your spouse or family — My husband and I know how much money we have, where it needs to be spent, and what our financial goals are because it is in black and white. If it’s not in the budget, it doesn’t get spent. If we want to spend money on something, we need to agree on it and add it to the budget.
My husband and I have incredible peace in our marriage because of our budget. Our plan allows us to give generously, save for our future, and be in control of our money. Our infant son will have the skills necessary to manage his money and make an impact in the world.
Leanne is an organizational whiz working with youth and young adults in Fort Worth, TX. She is a seminary graduate and a walking warrior. She’s the nerd who loves spreadsheets and finding a good deal. She lives in the Dallas area with her husband and infant son, Wesley. Visit her blog, Cooking With the Johstons.
To me, a budget is also a “magical money machine” (a concept that a Dave Ramsey friend taught me). As we go through the month, being careful to stay on budget, anything leftover can be used for what we really want!
Since we know we’re on track (we use a system with virtual envelopes but you can use real cash/envelopes too) we know when there’s money leftover. It’s a real motivator!!
TJs Sweet Home says
Great article! Happy Valentines Day!~TJ
We started working on our budget before we got married so we knew how much we could spend on rent, etc. That was 14 years ago and I’m so happy we did that! We are completely debt free.
Heather @ My Kansas Life says
Excellent advice! Our budget certainly keeps us from marital catastrophe on a regular basis. I just wrote a post on my blog about how you have to aim if you want to reliably hit your target — so true of money-related goals.
Iris Pulga says
Thank you for the inspiration. Though we are not in debt (not so much, I mean), I still don’t know where my income is going.
I can honestly say that I am a work in progress. Thank you once again!
Lea Stormhammer says
Have you tried writing down every single penny you spend for one month? It’s a total pain to do but it’s incredibly eye opening! We found out were were spending a lot on little things (a snack here, a bottle of something to drink here, coffee at work in the break room, an item we really didn’t need that looked like it might be fun, etc.) and were wasting more than one of our paychecks each year on things that added no value to our life!
We’ve been much more mindful for the last 6 1/2 years and we should be completely debt free (house included) in 2 1/2 years! We’re so excited!
Hope that’s helpful,
Lovely, thoughtful post.
I think when you see the budget as something that relieves you of stress then you stick to it. It is not a punishment. I never want to feel sick to my stomach when I go to the the mail. ( sick from being stressed about the bills in the mail.)
Wells R We says
Great story. Between my husband I, and like most people we knew just how to spend when we married 10 yrs ago. Today we have been debt free for 7 years with the exception of school loans and a car payment. Three weeks from today it will ONLY be school loans!! So wonderful!!!!
Way to go, Wells R We! Keep it up…you will reap what you sow, & it will be amazing!
grace brewer says
glad to read this….starting a budget/cash system for the first time when we get our income taxes back! (and im TERRIFIED!!!) i have always used a credit card (im 25; i have had one since i was 16) but i have always paid it in full up to 2 months ago….so im anxious to get on a cash system and pay off the card and cut them suckers up!!!! 😀
Allison Voges says
You can do it! I used cards for several years and initially paid off every month…and then I didn’t. I’m debt free for four years now, and credit and loans don’t even enter my thoughts. It’s not always fun to say no to spending, but nobody owns me either!
Dina-Marie @ Cultured Palate says
Great advice! After all, if you are not content with what you have, you will never be content with what you want!
I use a notebook to write down our expenses broken down into categories – it makes it easy to see where the money is going!
Rebecca Foley says
If anyone is interested in a nifty and simple tool for budgeting and keeping track of expenses, I downloaded for free this Excel spreadsheet that is already formatted. All you have to do is fill in your own categories (read the explanations , they make sense! don’t get scared, this is all you have to do) and budget amounts. Each month has a tab and you put in all your expenses as you spend. It add and subtracts it all up for you and shows you in clear English what the end result is at the end of each page. I find it very intuitive and the best system for keeping track I have tried!
https://pearbudget.com/spreadsheet (there is also a website that costs a few dollars a month, I tried it, but personally prefer the spreadsheet!)
Brandi @ Savvy Student Shopper says
Great advice! Before a couple gets married it’s important to discuss these things!
Nicole Blaylock says
I totally agree!! My husband and I will celebrate 4 years of marriage in December, and when we married, we were young and dumb. We lived paycheck to paycheck, he had (has) student loans, and we had no savings account. I finally got sick of living like that, I implemented a budget, and since then, we have saved thousands within months, and our marriage has never been better. I only wish we had started out with a budget!!