Begin with a Budget
What’s the first thing you think when you hear these words?
The first thing I used to think was, “YUCK!”
Some people are naturally really good with money. They save and they prepare. “They” are most definitely not me.
I don’t enjoy budgeting or even talking about money. I hate that feeling of walking into a store and knowing that I can’t afford to buy anything. I feel out of place and judged.
In fact, once I was checking out at the grocery store and my debit card was declined. Has that ever happened to you? Embarrassing! I had to pull out a credit card and purchase groceries on credit. That was a hard moment. In that moment I felt like I was failing at life. I knew we shouldn’t be living this way, yet due to our current circumstances, there wasn’t much I could do.
If you’re in a similar place I want to encourage you.
It will get better.
It won’t always be like this.
We all go through seasons; seasons of lack and seasons of plenty. Regardless of the season you currently find yourself in, it’s possible to be content. The apostle Paul shared his secret for being content in Philippians.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
I can…YOU can…do everything through Christ, who will give us the strength we need. We don’t need to depend on luck or be victims of the ebbs and flows of life. There are actionable steps we can take to be equipped and prepared for what life may throw at us.
One of the best things I ever did was participate in Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. That course helped me to learn to embrace a written budget so that even when times are lean I know how to live well within my means.
You can do it too!
Begin Your Budget
I know budget can sound like a dirty word, but before you can start clearing debt, you need to know where your money is going. An itemized budget will help you discover where you overspend, it will help you keep track of where your money is being spent, and it will help you move money towards clearing debt.
The goal here is for you to tell your money where it goes, not let it dictate how you live. Line out all your expected expenses, including your monthly debt payments (credit cards, car, etc.), so your income after expenses equals zero.
Prioritize food, shelter, clothes, transportation, and mortgage (if applicable) should be the very first things you account for on the budget. These are non-negotiable items that require attention. Then, list everything else. This is where you can start clearing space for more income by removing items you can live without, for now (e.g., gym membership, internet, cable).
If there is any leftover income after your budget, add that into your emergency savings or on top of your regularly scheduled debt payments.
If you’re in a season of lack I want to encourage you to surround yourself with people who love you and support you. Sometimes that’s family, but a lot of times it isn’t, and that’s okay. Find people who will not judge you or criticize you, but you’re already doing enough of that to yourself, I’m sure. Find people from your church or among your friends or even a financial support group. Sign up for Financial Peace University in your area, if possible.
Don’t let your fear of being hurt keep you from asking for help. It is such a blessing to have people praying for you, offering meals, or even just reminding you to hold your head high and walk through this season until you get to the other side.
There are so many people who have the desire to help people who truly need it. If you’re too afraid to admit a need help, you’ll cause those people to miss the opportunity to be blessed by giving.
Above all, remember:
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
Two More Goals
Once you have told your money where to go, then focus on building up an emergency fund of $1,000 so that when hard times hit you don’t need to rely on debt.
Finally, pay off all your debt, and then never go into debt again. Your biggest tool for building wealth is your income. Don’t let others (credit card companies, student loans, etc.) claim it before you even get it!
Soon, you’ll be able to sign up for Shepherd’s Village University’s free eLearning course: Financial Freedom, which will provide you with manageable steps you can take toward creating a budget and reducing your debt. It will also offer ways you can get your kids excited about managing money, too!
In the meantime, find a Financial Peace University course near you. Visit Dave Ramey’s website and put your location in the search bar half way down the page.
About the author: Vanessa Hull