Budgeting That Works

Budgeting That Works

“Why is it that two intelligent women struggle this much with something as simple as budgeting?” my friend asked. We had been talking about making sure our kids were registered for the sports they were participating in, when the frustration of trying to budget worked it’s way into the conversation. Money management discussions always make my blood run cold — kind of like the thought of teaching algebra.

Past Finances

I’ve read, and reviewed, financial books before. I started out with Financial Fitness and Total Money Make-over back when I started this blog in 2018. I’ve spoken to experts — people who have been able to master the saving/spending to get good tips and tricks. I’ve worked on making a balanced budget and struggled to stick with it.

WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT?!?!

I hate to admit it publicly like this, but in the spirit of being honest and transparent, here goes. I’ve been a financial mess for so long the daily stress of “Is there enough money to do this?” has worn me down. There have been times when I’m not sure where the house payment is going to come from, or I know a trip to buy basics like milk or bread is not an option. Negative numbers in the bank account are too frequently happening. I’ve looked around at the things in the house and wondered if I could sell them fast enough to buy food for the week.

Yet, I was smart enough to get a Master’s degree! How is this possible?

First Goal

I started out 2022 with the word Active. I realized that I needed to be better at taking an active role in my life and not just reacting to what happens. The financial stress needed to end so I could focus more of my time and energy on my boys.

January’s goal became: I will become financially fit in 2022 by creating a balanced budget based on the book The One Week Budget by Tiffany Aliche. Each pay period for the 2022 year I will sit down with an accountability partner and review my budget and bank statement to make sure I’m on track with my saving and spending.  

The One Week Budget was a much smaller book then the other ones I have read through in the past. But the thought of one week to create a money management system? I could do that! And I did — see No Buy Year for a run down on how that went. It took the full week to get it all set up the way I wanted, but I was pleased with the outcome.

Overwhelmed to Possible

In the past, I have read the financial books and started to do what they said. Make a monthly budget. Put together a Net Worth sheet with all your outstanding debts and current Daily Living bills. Create a Debt Snowball.

And after a few weeks, I got more overwhelmed and stressed out and gave it all up. It was easier to live in the negative because that stress was stress I knew and was familiar with. Trying to keep all the new rules straight was more work and I was so focused on figuring out where to get more money to create a flow . . .

Tiffany Aliche spoke to me as a person through her book. I liked that the chapters were short (about 20 pages each day) and filled with templates and examples. There were links to her blog, and I easily found her on Facebook. Following her budget was about getting honest with myself and putting it down in writing. Nothing more.

In Financial Fitness, there are 47 principals of money to understand and follow. There are also audios to listen to to help motivate you, and I’ve listened to many of them. But I was still confused and felt like an idiot for not being able to make it work. We went without, I minimized, and I was still in the negative. Same results with Total Money Make-Over. I lost a lot of hope for my financial future.

This book has 12 steps — not really like the 12 steps from CoDA, but it seemed like a good sign. If I can do those 12, I can do these 12.

  1. Create a list of your spending habits (Day 1)
  2. Show me the money (Day 1)
  3. Beginning savings (Day 1)
  4. Separation can be a good thing (Day 2)
  5. Reduce your spending (Day 2)
  6. New savings (Day 3)
  7. Revamp your money list (Day 3)
  8. Define your dollars (Day 4)
  9. The Budget Grid (Day 5)
  10. Separate your grid (Day 6)
  11. Prepay bills (Day 7)
  12. Work the System (Day 7)

The brilliant things about this system is that you spend a week to get it together. Then you work the system. That’s it!

It has been one month since I started the 12 steps from the One Week Budget, and I’m still going strong! I made a plan, and I’ve been able to simply work the plan. For the first time in a long time, I’m not only NOT in the negative, but I’ve actually put money into savings! I’m looking forward to sitting down with my accountability partner to look over what I’ve been able to do and make adjustments for next month. Never have I been able to say I was excited to look over money!

Making it a Habit

Checking that everything has cleared the bank is my biggest responsibility now that the system is set up. I decided to make it a habit to do this every night so there were no financial surprises from day to day. In Atomic Habits, James Clear suggests connecting a new habit to one you already have established. This promotes automaticity. I decided to set aside some time every night while the boys got ready for bed to update my budget and write in my gratitude journal.

This has been a smooth transition for me. Even on the nights that things get a little crazy and I’m not able to sit down at my scheduled time, I don’t panic. It is easy to sit down the following morning and get updated.

Call to Action

Your turn to tell me about your budgeting struggles. What has worked in the past for you? What still feels scarry?

I don’t have answers to many things right now, but I feel like honest discussions can promote learning and growth. Let’s talk about money and help each other make it out of the dark hole.

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