Last week, Austin and I came home from camp with our church, ready to get great sleep for the first time in a solid five days. Much to our dismay, we walked into our brand new home at a sweltering 90 degrees. The air conditioner we were told was brand new had completely blown at the start of summer.
We couldn’t have expected anything like that was going to happen. After all, we believed everything was recent and under warranty.
The point is that we can make plans all we want, but we will still likely be blindsided.
This month, I was SO grateful that we’d spent our marriage budgeting just in case something like this happened. We did, and everything turned out fine, but something like this will likely come again–and soon. So here are the steps we have taken to reevaluate our lifestyle, prepare for the worst, but have fun in the process.
1. Begin with a boundary-setting mindset.
So right before our AC went out, we put a fence in our backyard. I know, the timing could not be more insane! I will never forget letting my dog into our yard for the first time without the leash. She ran and gasped and played and sprang all over our yard with her new found freedom.
That’s right. Freedom. She was enclosed with 6-foot walls on all sides, but she had more freedom than ever before.
You see, she was free to run and jump and play without being hit by a car. She had freedom in her boundaries.
Finances work the same way. When we set boundaries, we have more freedom to enjoy ourselves without being in continual anxiety that we may be hit with an unexpected expense.
That’s what this whole plan is about: setting our own boundaries.
2. Go back and look at the last three month’s spending.
Okay here is probably the least fun part. Accountability.
Usually, when we go back and check out our spending, we quickly realize that even if we aren’t spending hundreds of dollars on absurd things at a time, we are still throwing twenty dollars here and twenty dollars there. We realize that we have been paying for a membership to something we don’t really need but convince ourselves we have to keep. We realize how quickly money can go to waste on things like a Starbucks drink once or twice or five times per week.
The first step is to always admit we have a problem. Go back, establish your patterns, and find where your problem is.
3. Find areas where you can cut.
Snip Snip! It’s time to get rid of some of those payments. Start by deciding what to cut. I always begin with my coffee outings and eating out. Usually, when we have grown lax about our money, it reflects in how much we are spending at trendy Nashville restaurants and cafes.
Maybe you decide to cut the no commercial version of Spotify or Hulu. Five dollars here and ten dollars there adds up quick. I promise.
4. Download the Every Dollar Budgeting App.
Austin and I just downloaded this app and we LOVE it already. It basically allows you to keep track of everything you do. If you feel like you need a little extra help and it is a good investment for your family, there is a setting where you can pay $10 per month to connect the app to your bank account.
The best part is IT’S DAVE RAMSEY’S APP.
That’s right. If you have dabbled into financial planning and getting out of debt at all, you have probably heard of Dave Ramsey. His philosophy is simple. Live like no one else (save like a fiend) so you can live like no one else (have incredible control over and freedom with any money God gives you).
4. Use all of that info as a template for this month.
Now that you have downloaded the app, go back to all the info you compiled based on your last three month’s spending and everything you cut. Now plug each payment into your app. It divides pretty much everything you might spend on so that you can put in the info and the app can tell you how much you have to budget.
Then, as you spend, you just plug in the information and keep up with what you have left. It’s easy as that!
5. Play a “who can spend less” game.
Maybe “easy” is a flippant word. It’s never easy to remember to write down everything you spend. BUT there are ways to make it fun. Austin and I like to play a “who can spend less” game, where we compete with who can spend less of the spending money for the month. At the end of the month, whatever is not spent, goes either into savings or toward something fun we have been wanting to do.
6. Track all money that comes in and goes out.
I’m going back to this because, seriously, it is the most important part. Remember when I made the point that spending twenty here and twenty there is the most tempting kind of spending? It’s usually because we have not kept up with how many twenties we have spent.
Tracking everything allows us to better recognize when we have all of the sudden spent $200 on eating out in less than a month.
It allows us to see when we are spending money on coffees that we could be making at home.
Mostly, it allows us to see when we are not being good stewards of the resources God has given us. The point of budgeting and saving is not that we might be wealthy. It is not so we can buy the newest Apple watch or have the latest iPhone. It is not even to do positive things like getting out of debt or giving over ten percent.
If our goal is something we can do here on earth, our goals are wrong.
The point of saving and budgeting is that we might be free to give whatever whenever God is calling us. It is that we might be able to exhaust our resources on the Kingdom.
Things are going to go wrong. God may put us in a place where finances are tight and we do not know where tomorrow’s meal or next month’s mortgage will come from. Our job is to be responsible for what we have. Our job is to keep from envying what we don’t. Our job is to trust Him with both.
Let us budget and save wisely, lest we become flippant with stewardship. Even so, let us not grow obsessed with our finances that we stop trusting our God to hold us together in His hands alone.
Check out the video below for even more specific tips on how to budget and save for your family!