Get yourself a Budget!

The “B” word. No, not that one. The one that makes you or your spouse or maybe both of you cringe. The one that parents use in ways that make their kids learn to hate it. BUDGET. Yes, I know. You think you are doing fine, or you don’t want to feel deprived. You should give it a “wirl” and see how it really goes. I’ve tried making and sticking to a budget over 15 times in the last five years. I always gave up after two weeks, telling myself, “We are paying off student loans on time or early, have no credit card debt, and saving some. We are fine.” It wasn’t until recently when I got my husband fully on board and sat down together to set our long-term, lifetime goals that it clicked.

One of our goals for 2015 is to move several states away from our current residence, back closer to our family. In doing so, we want to buy our first home. The thought of this purchase brings great excitement but also fear. Can we really afford a house? After learning more about mortgages, we decided saving enough money to have a 20% down payment was imperative so that we wouldn’t have to lose money to PMI, private mortgage insurance. We have some money saved, but not enough for my goal: 20% down payment AND eight months worth of expenditures if something crazy were to happen. (I’m a plan-for-the-worst kind of girl.) Could we do it? Let’s check our budget. Wait, we don’t have one!

At the end of December, I sat down and made a budget – again. It was always a little unnerving looking at the numbers, seeing reality staring me in the face. We weren’t actually doing too badly, but there was definite room for improvement. We made a budget that squeezed us a little but was more than reasonable. January was a test month to see if the budget we set was going to work…and if I was going to make this last more than two weeks. (I do all of our finances even though my husband is kept up-to-date, can access the info at any time, and gets a say in any big decisions.) We saved more in January than every individual month in 2014 and TWICE as much as we did in eight of the twelve months! Was this a fluke?! (Wake up call!! We were throwing money away somewhere!)

February was harder. I was already getting tired of this. Keeping tight reigns and saving receipts was not much fun, but we already made it a whole month…let’s just see if we can do this again. Then one night, my husband asked me if we could go out to eat somewhere and genuinely asked, “Is that in the budget?” I was stunned. He was really on board! We can do this! At the end of February, we saw that we saved a little MORE than January! I’m excited to see what March entails. I’m squeezing the budget a little tighter. If it’s too much, we will adjust from there – or maybe keep it as a challenge to meet.

We are on our way to the rest of the savings we need for our goals. Some months have more expenses, and we know we will save less those months because of how I set up our budget, but I’ve planned for that. That’s the beauty of a budget. YOU are in control. Our budget will continue to change over the next year, especially after we move, but my ultimate goal for 2015 is to keep up with it. Seeing the savings has been a definite motivator. Looking back, I wish we would have been smarter about some of our decisions earlier in life, but we can only move forward!

It’s not always easy or fun. You may only be able to make a budget where you are breaking even each month and not actually saving anything at first. You have to start somewhere! For those who already have a budget, I challenge you to find more savings! If you don’t already have one, get yourself a budget. You may not know what you are missing (like some money)!

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