Getting started with anything is, most of the time, the hardest part. I mean, it’s easy to say that “you’ll start doing XYZ on Monday” but then Monday comes around and before you know it you haven’t even taken a baby step towards making your goal a reality.
There’s a Bible story that has always fascinated me because it’s honestly kind of strange. It’s the one about the Pharaoh and the plague of frogs (Exodus 8:5-6). I don’t know about you, but my boys tried to “surprise” me once with a frog….in my bed…and I about burned the house down trying to get away.
So it always amazes me whenever I read that the Pharaoh actually requested to wait one more day before having Moses come and make the frogs go away. Heck, I couldn’t handle 30 seconds so I can’t even imagine dealing with frogs everywhere for an entire day.
I’m pretty certain this is where the phrase “misery loves company” comes from. We can actually get comfortable in our misery. Sure we still complain about it but we’re comfortable because our misery is familiar and to get out of our misery requires us to get uncomfortable. And who wants to do that?
So here’s the deal. To make any kind of change, you’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable. You’re going to have to do things differently than what you’re currently doing and it’s going to be H-A-R-D.
That’s why the first step to managing your money is such a challenge for many, because it requires a change in the way that we’re currently living. In order to effectively manage your money, you will absolutely without a doubt have to have a budget.
Yeah, I know, “budgets are for poor people”, and “budgets are too restrictive”, and a “budget doesn’t allow you to live your life”, and blah-de-blah-de-blah. I get it. You think that a budget is too complicated, too much, and just flat-out not worth your time.
It’s cool, but without a budget you’re just allowing your money to control you.
Keep It Simple Stupid
When it comes to setting up your budget, keeping it simple is the best policy. When you add too many categories and too many transactions to keep up with it will overwhelm you and then you just won’t want to do it anymore.
I mean, who has time to categories 200 transactions and still cook dinner? No one.
So do yourself a favor, set up a few basic categories and then head to the bank or ATM and pull out the money you need for categories that aren’t related to bills. This is called using the “cash envelope system” and it’s genius for keeping your spending in check and keeping you from having to write down five million transactions. For more on the cash envelope system head here.
Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More
I like to plan our budget around our calendar. I mean, it only makes sense that if I’m planning how we’re going to spend our money that month that I should look at our family’s calendar to see what events are happening.
So, now instead Conner’s friend’s birthday party sneaking up on me, I already have it budgeted and planned for.
Whenever you create your budget, pull up your calendar or pull out your planner and review the month ahead.
Do you have any weddings, showers, birthday parties to attend to?
Are there any gifts that you need to purchase?
Are there any holidays coming up?
Are there any yearly bills that are due this month?
Any scheduled (auto or home) maintenance planned?
Any charity drives that you want to contribute to this month?
This way, you’ll know to plan around these events instead of allowing them to creep up on you.
Okay, so if you’ve never created a budget before, you’re probably going “OMG, I don’t even know where to begin!!!” right now. So, if this is the case for you, I suggest you follow the “Quick Budget”, which will basically make learning how to budget easier as well as help to stop the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle.
Now, I don’t recommend you follow the quick budget for forever. Eventually you need to learn how to budget for the whole month ahead and not just per pay period, but it’s still a great way to get started. Head here to read how to set up the quick budget.
So what if you create your budget and you realize, “oh hey, I don’t have any money…”. You have two options – make more money or save more money. Both work extremely well to help balance out the budget and I’ve done both many times before on this budgeting journey.
My first suggestion is evaluate your spending and to figure out if you can cut your expenses. First you’ll obviously have to decide if you need to really be spending XYZ on such and such. Then I suggest you figure out if there are ways to save on the things you do need to purchase like groceries and gas for your car.
There is another more extreme way to really jumpstart your budget back in gear and to get your spending under control. But I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s called the “No Spend Month” and basically, it’s where you go an entire month with only spending money on your rent/mortgage, gas for your car, utilities, and groceries (no dinning out).
It’s a whole lot harder than it sounds, trust me. If you want to see if a No Spend Month will work for you, I highly suggest you read Ruth Soukup’s book, 31 Days of Living Well and Spending Zero.
These are just a few of the ways to jumpstart your budget and help rebalance it out. I’d love to hear what you’re currently doing to keep your budget balance so please share below!
Don't know how to make a budget?
No problem! This simple and easy-to-use guide is perfect for beginners! It'll walk you through step-by-step in creating a budget for the very first time.