I recently started watching a TV show filmed in Canada, called Till Debt Do You Part. It is an old series, on youtube, and over and over couples, or families, struggling with their money, are visited by an expert. She looks at their budget, their house and their lifestyle and tells them exactly what they need to do to get into shape financially. She gives them a series of challenges, one per week for a month. If they can make a budget, or call to get the interest down on their credit card, or get signed up for health insurance, they get a big carrot, $5000.00, at the end of the month. At the end of the show, the relieved couple have a plan, they have cut out money wasters, and they feel hopeful.
What I like about this show, and why I am hooked, is because I too was clueless, and can relate with the exasperation and hopelessness. The expert has the heart of a teacher, and takes each couple through cutting up their credit cards, and putting them on a cash budget with money in jars so they can really see what they are supposed to live on.
If you have no clue on how to handle your money, you could start with this show.
Through the years we have figured out a lot of money principles and have felt like we have succeeded, but my last hold-out was having a budget that would work. I really tried. I posted here about You Need A Budget. I worked diligently for two years and still found it difficult to make it work. I talked to their customer service people a lot, watched youtube videos and generally felt discouraged. If every cent is not accounted for then it messes up the next month.
My financial guru, Amy Dacyczyn, taught me how to be frugal. She is an extreme example of frugality, living on 38,000.00 a year in Maine, raising a family of 5 children, in the 1990’s. The biggest thing she taught me is that if you were careful, you didn’t need two incomes to survive in America, so that someone was home with the children. She taught me to cook at home, go to yard sales and thrift stores, and slowly we paid off 285,000.00 in student debt. The only thing she confessed to was never making a budget. She said she just tried not to spend money, and that was her budgeting tool.
I have since learned that everyone needs a budget. Unless you are a super saver, like Amy, you need a map for the month. You always need to pay yourself, so you have savings, and I am a tithe payer to our church. Having your fixed expenses like housing and utilities laid out, and then categories for your variable expenses, makes every dollar count. Without a budget there is no structure to my money and I become reactive and feel out of control.
My niece said she used Dave Ramsey’s Every Dollar to pay off their house. She used the free version, which meant she didn’t pay to have her bank transactions automatically put into the budget. That is the power of a budget! It helps you focus and methodically make progress on a big goal.
Every Dollar costs $99.00 a year, which is $8.25 a month to have your transactions automatically download into their budgeting software. I have found it really easy to use and forgiving of my mistakes.
Last November I finally signed up for Every Dollar and it has been easy and liberating. I have a tiny habit of categorizing 1 transaction a day. I am always drawn in to do more.
As you start taking control of your finances, paying debt down becomes easier. A budget helps me say no to impulse buys and I am not stressed out as the end of the month approaches, because I have planned and know there is money in there. A budget put me in charge!
“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant”. P. T. Barnum