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Budget is NOT a four letter word

My wife and I are in a mountain of debt.  Earlier this year we started Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  We have been successful in paying off our smaller bills and as we get into the larger ones, they are coming down pretty quickly.  This is largely due to our budget.

I have never really operated off of a written budget.  I always just looked at our bank account online and figured out whether we had enough money to pay for something. (Note this was AFTER using credit cards for years and running up the aforementioned mountain.)  Thus we ate out often, we paid most of our bills mostly on time, we never had money in the bank, and I was always worried about it.  I didn’t talk to my wife about it because I didn’t want to worry her.  She asked if we had money to do something and I said yes whenever I could.

See, I did not tell my money where to go.  I wondered where it went.

Enter Dave’s FPU.  An early lesson in FPU is about budgeting.  Yes, I said the b-word.  My wife and I were determined to do FPU correctly and do what we were supposed to.  We sat down at the kitchen table with a budget worksheet from FPU and our cashflow worksheet and a calculator.  We went through and named every dollar that was coming in.  It wasn’t easy the first time.  It wasn’t perfect the first time.  In fact it still isn’t perfect, but it is easier.

Last month, I looked at my bank account (for the first time in two weeks) and there was $27 in the account.  I didn’t get worried or upset.  I knew that our money was where it was supposed to be.  It was two days before I got paid.  I used to stress if the account went below $200 because I didn’t know what we still had outstanding.  That evening I mentioned it to my wife and she said, “That’s about what I expected.” Again, no stress.

That Sunday we sat on our bed to have our budget meeting.  We talked about what we had coming in.  We talked about the debts we still had to pay and how long till they were gone.  We named every dollar we had coming in.  While I was sitting there I had an epiphany.

My stress over the money was gone.  We still have to stretch some.  We still have struggles.  But now we talk about it.  We plan it together.  We are together on this trip to being debt free.  It occurred to me that a budget is like the lines on a two-lane highway.  The lines allow two fast-moving cars to pass inches from each other with confidence.  The budget allows my account to go to $27 at the end of the pay period and I have confidence it won’t be overdrawn.  It allows me to push the edges in order to make larger debt snowball (look it up on Dave Ramsey’s site) payments.

Thanks for helping us paint our yellow lines, Dave.