I remember our first-ever budget. It was in July 2003. My fine bride, Jenn, came into the living room with a budget scribbled on a piece of lined paper. She had been trying to get me to budget for the past 6 months or so, but I was not playing along (because I’m a spender!).
I believed budgets were controlling, restricting, live-in-a-Maytag-refrigerator-box pieces of trash. They made me say the word “no”, and it interrupted my flow. I wanted no part of it.
But let’s consider a snapshot of my family’s financial situation when Jenn walked in:
- I was managing the money
- We had $4.13 in our checking account
- Our credit cards had a huge balance on them again – for the third time!
- We had a 105% financed car and a 100% financed truck
- There was nothing in our short-term savings account
- We were B-R-O-K-E
- I was in COMPLETE DENIAL!
I can not write this strong enough: I was B-R-O-K-E and telling my wife, “NO!” to doing something different with our finances! But, for some reason at that very moment, something happened that changed my life and marriage forever. I turned off the TV and looked at the budget she had prepared. It actually showed we could live for a month without incurring any additional debt!
LIFE-CHANGING does not describe the next few minutes. I moved into the computer room and started entering the expenses into Microsoft Excel. As I was putting together the formula to subtract expenses from the income, I realized that all of this time I could have been managing my money with the math skills possessed by the average first-grader. INCOME – OUTGO = EXACTLY ZERO! After a few minutes, we had a budget that was EXACTLY ZERO.
My life and marriage have been changed forever because we discovered that a budget is NOT restricting. It is freedom! It is merely telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it all went. It allows you to pay off debt, save up for known, upcoming expenses, save money for emergencies, and fund your dreams.
The first budget was tough because not everything went according to the plan. Every month we had been spending an enormous amount at Wal-Mart and did not clearly know what we had spent it on. As a result, our first month was a little rough. Month two was a bit easier. Month three was even easier.
Listen to your feelings as I write this next line: We don’t worry about money ANY MORE. We did something different. We applied God’s word and Grandma’s advice to our money and our lives have never been the same.
You CAN do this! You CAN get through the 1st month’s budget! Click on “TOOLS” at the top of the page or click HERE to download your FREE budget form and get started!
Need further help? My book, I Was Broke. Now I’m Not., provides the exact tools my family used to win with money. It will help you do the same. Learn more HERE.
“How do I get my spouse to work with me on our finances?”
This is a very common question I encounter in the world of personal finances! The non-participative spouse problem is real, and it can be extremely frustrating.
First, let me say these two things:
- Finances are one of the top causes of marriage fights and divorce.
- Until both spouses are on the same page financially, it is impossible to maximize your financial potential.
So, recognizing how important it is that you work together, I submit the following strategies to bring the reluctant spouse on board with planning the family’s finances.
1. Plan out your conversation
- Take time to write down the reasons you would like to have your spouse’s active help in managing the family’s finances. The Financial Planning Checklist can help you with this. Include your dreams in this list. That 25th anniversary trip you have always dreamed of, the boat you’ve always wanted, paying for your daughter’s wedding, paying for your children’s college, etc.
- Look into some potential ways to improve your financial management. I highly recommend putting together a monthly spending plan BEFORE the month actually begins. You can find FREE copies HERE. Complete a personal finance study like the I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. Study.
2. Talk with your spouse
- Arrange for a babysitter to watch your children, and schedule a night out with your spouse. Go to a nice dinner and then to a coffee house. Tell your spouse you have something you want to discuss that is VERY IMPORTANT to you. TRUST ME. When you tell them you want to discuss something VERY IMPORTANT with them, you WILL have their attention! This sort of statement is NOT something your spouse hears every day.
- Share your concerns with your spouse. Explain in terms of unrealized dreams. Here are some examples:”I am concerned that if we do not work together to plan our finances, we may not get to go to Hawaii for our 25th anniversary” and “The children are growing up so fast, and we have not started saving for their college yet” and “We have earned over $500,000 over the past ten years, and we only have $1,500 in savings.” DO NOT PUT THEM INTO A DEFENSIVE POSITION. IF YOU DO, THIS WILL NOT BE A PRODUCTIVE DISCUSSION. Don’t say terrible or hateful things like, “Our finances stink because of your ignorance, and this is all your fault.”
3. Take Action!
- You have had the discussion. It might be appropriate to back off for a little while to let your spouse process everything you have shared. At some point, however, you need to take action! Sign up for the class. Set up an evening for you both to prepare a budget once the children are off to bed.
By the way, marriage is grand, but divorce is at least a hundred grand! I’m convinced that if most people knew how much divorce would really cost them, they would be much more willing to spend the money to figure out a way to work together!
- Are you living paycheck to paycheck?
- If you missed one paycheck, have you saved enough money to pay your bills on time?
Statistics continue to show that somewhere between 50% to 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.
Bankruptcy is a very close relative to paycheck to paycheck living. People who choose to live this way are just one illness away from disaster. Just one job layoff away. One paycut away.
Marriage distress and divorce is a very close relative to both bankruptcy and paycheck to paycheck living.
If you are living paycheck to paycheck, I must ask:
Why would you put yourself in this position?
The stress is not worth it! The energy required to determine when each bill will be paid is exhausting. Why would you allow your marriage and financial future to be jeopardized?
If I can not give money away and save each time I am paid, something is broken. Having a car payment, a student loan payment, a furniture payment, and credit card payments might allow me to look good, but there is no way it is worth the stress of paycheck to paycheck living.
Financial margin allows you to stop the stress and despair.
If you are stuck in the paycheck to paycheck life, here are some practical steps you can take to get OUT of the madness!
- Pay cash for all future purchases. No more debt. It is the first rule of holes – When you are in a hole, stop digging!
- Spend all of your month’s money on paper BEFORE the month begins. It is called a budget, and it is AWESOME! Apply the basic rule: INCOME – OUTGO = EXACTLY ZERO. You can get started by clicking on “TOOLS” on the top of the page or by clicking HERE.
- Refuse to believe the lie that you must have debt. You do not HAVE to have debt. I have personally seen hundreds of people accomplish major improvement in their personal finances. Many have went all the way to total freedom of debt (except the house – some including the house!).
I want financial freedom so much for you! I feel a HUGE WEIGHT on my heart to help you achieve financial freedom! I want to help you! It is why I wrote I Was Broke. Now I’m Not. – to help you prosper! You CAN do this!
Have you ever been involved in a big project? I mean a big project! One with large quantities of work, assignments, people, and deadlines involved? If you have been associated with a number of projects like this, I can virtually guarantee you have experienced the “mired-in-the-details-I-have-no-clue-about-what-is-going-on” leader.
This is the type of leader who, when leading a project similar to solving world-hunger, will spend fifteen days determining what type of tablecloth to have at a fund-raising dinner. A leader who, when leading a project to build a new school, will spend seven days figuring out the number of pounds of clay it will take to bake the brick it will take.
Most of the items the project leader focuses on ARE important, it is just not important for them to figure it out!
They have forgotten to keep the main thing the main thing!
I believe all people have found themselves stuck in the details at some point.
- Polishing up the entire house for Thanksgiving dinner, but forgetting to put the turkey in the oven.
- Making sure the children are delivered to and picked up from school on time, but never taking time to see how school is going.
- Obtaining a huge promotion at work, but neglecting the entire family for three years to achieve it.
I see a great example of this in the Bible, Acts 6. The widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food, and the disciples were being asked to attend to the widows. Was it important to feed the widows? Absolutely! However, what was the Main Thing for the disciples? Telling others about Jesus! So, what did the disciples do? They selected seven trustworthy individuals and put them in charge of serving the widows.
The disciples said it so well … “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”
Are you keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing? Have you been distracted from the ultimate reason you have been put on this earth. It is time to refocus!
This is a series that appears on a regular basis here at JosephSangl.com – “Biblical Financial Lessons”
Ecclesiastes 5:10 “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.”
This is an incredible statement, and every single person on planet Earth wrestles with this issue. We all must deal with money, and most of the time we simply do not have enough to buy all of the things we want. If we are not very careful, we will begin to pursue money and develop a love for it.
Marketers know this, and this is why they continually play upon the feelings of lack or scarcity. Of course, once you obtain the item they are offering, they must sell you something else. They move the “happiness” line again, and create another feeling of “you are nothing unless you have this one thing.” And for those who are in love with money and wealth, the cycle never ends.
Here is a great question to ask yourself:
“How much money is enough?”
If your answer is an actual number (such as $1 million), watch out! A great answer is “I have enough right now. I am so blessed!”
In Matthew 6:21, we read “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” To avoid giving your heart over to the pursuit of money and “More. More! More!!”, employ these regular activities:
- State “I am so blessed!” at least once each day. Tell someone WHY you are blessed.
- Give money away. Giving keeps me from being greedy and connects my heart to the organizations and individuals I have given to.
- Pray. Prayer helps maintain focus on what is most important.
- Serve others. Serving others allows me to see that the world does not revolve around me and ensures that I live an open-handed life focused on helping others!
- Document your blessings. When you write down the blessings you have in your life, it opens your eyes to just how blessed you really are!!!
- Are you giving money away?
- How are you serving others?
- Have you written your blessings on paper lately?