Have you ever heard of a guy named Dave Ramsey? Well he knows stuff about money and debt. Apparently he knows so much he wrote a book (or books) and does a radio program and probably a lot of other things too. For a while this guy’s method felt like the “in” thing to be doing in my circle of people. So Mr. Sexy and I read the book. It was pretty great. Then we got to chapter 3 (I think) where we had to save up an emergency fund of one thousand dollars. According to Ramsey, this is a building block (or baby step) in getting out of debt. So I quit reading. I always had intentions of going back to the book after we saved our emergency fund. But, you see, we never got that savings part down. So I wasn’t able to return to the book and find out what the next steps are. If I knew the next steps, I might want to skip the saving step! ::gasp:: What an outlandish idea!
During a time (that wasn’t so long ago) we were drowning in the deep darkness of debt, late bills and the possibility of our lights getting unplugged. We were making some pretty bad choices. The worst one was probably the fact that we weren’t even talking about the problems. I would get a scary letter or a visit. I cried to Mr. Sexy. He immediately did something about it. All was fixed. Until the next time it happened. And the next time. And the “fixes” weren’t really fixes. They were bad choices. Mr. Sexy knows it and I know it.
So we went to a trusted friend for help who is GREAT with this stuff. Although he isn’t as famous as that Ramsey guy… He looked through our “budget” and shook his head.
“I don’t know how you’re making this work,” was his basic response.
He didn’t say this because of our lavish spending. He made that statement because we literally didn’t have enough money to pay our bills every month. I have lost count of how many times we had $20 to feed our family of five for two weeks. The only thing we splurged on was beer. To some this was probably a wrong choice. But we didn’t have tv. We didn’t go to the movies. Renting one was always a treat. I didn’t shop. AT ALL. We didn’t go bowling or out to eat. In fact, going anywhere as a family was a treat because of the gas it would cost. (And in the midst of all the money troubles we had our mommy-daughter troubles.) So to get through some of those tough times, however wrong it may have been, we chose beer. And our trusted friend understood that.
In fact, our trusted friend said the Dave Ramsey plan was not for us. While he commended the program because it has worked for loads of people, he also said it doesn’t work for everybody. This was a hard pill to swallow because I really like following step-by-step instructions. I really wanted our one thousand dollars in savings before doing anything else. However, it simply wasn’t possible. I tried to make it happen, believe me. But then our car died. Or somebody had to go to the doctor. Or we had to move suddenly.
I have now come to realize that we can still follow the principles Ramsey teaches but we don’t have do it exactly his way. Isn’t being an adult beautiful? We get to do what we want. Even if the famous man doesn’t agree.
Guess what? It’s working. Our way is working. We have enough money for all our bills, all the groceries we could want, PLUS a few extras.
We didn’t get where we are now without spending some time on our knees, however. We prayed. We cried. We drank. We complained. We begged. We accepted. We continued to push forward. Circumstances began to change. Some suddenly and some over time. We borrowed money (not one of our best moments). We accept the gift of money (a humbling place to be). We prayed over our money. We practiced the art of budgeting our money.
Our first budgets were terribly simple. I struggled with wanting to spend money we didn’t have – causing us to make late payments. Sometimes we made a good choice followed by two not so great ones.
In January, 2014, Mr. Sexy and I decided it was a great time to start over with budgeting. By that, we meant we were going to actually start budgeting. For real. We were strong in the beginning. But then there was a birthday party. And summertime. And lots of fun things. Budgeting was happening, but not to the degree it needed to be. Plus, money was still painfully tight.
It’s January again, and it’s one year later. We are starting fresh with the budget again. In fact, we made our first budget last night. While Mr. Sexy will put it on a fancy spreadsheet, I prefer to have multiple sheets of paper with everything written down and all the math right in front of me. It is really helpful for me to write everything down. EVERYTHING. It looks overwhelming when I’m done, but it’s something that makes sense to me. It was also extremely stressful. For me.
But then I paused and took a look at what I was fretting over: new slippers, hair cuts, a shower curtain, spending money for my personal desires… I simply wanted EVERYTHING. However, the fact is that we are in a place of blessing. We are paying off debt. We are paying all our bills on time. We have very affordable rent. We have enough money for gas. And for food. And even for a new pair of slippers for Yours Truly.
I think I wrote out a true budget for the first time last night. I decided to put some money in an envelope for hair cuts and decided against the new slippers. That was MY choice. It wasn’t dictated by our lack of funds. There was nobody telling me what the “right choice” was.
It’s the next day and I feel excited about our budget. However it means that if I randomly get invited out for dinner in the next few weeks I will have to say no. I didn’t budget any outings for myself. I chose to get Michael and Mr. Sexy hair cuts instead. And I’m okay with that.