At the turn of the New Year, I ‘fessed up to disorganization and procrastination. I didn’t really mean to. After writing that blog I remember wondering, why in the world I did post that?! In my mind I was writing a blog-lite—a little tongue-in-cheek piece for my readers to enjoy with their morning cup. But before the last sentence was done, the blog had taken on a life of its own. It was talking to me—loud and clear. It was all too true and not so funny. So I began to get to work, and write about it along the way.
Funny how positive change builds on itself. Having achieved a measure of success with my newfound sense of organization and scheduling system, my sites have turned to another area needing attention: the family budget. Not that I haven’t worked on this before….it’s just time for another tune-up. And wouldn’t you know it, this blog has been writing itself in my head for some time now, so I’d better let it have its say.
If you’re like me, you’ve had ups and downs in this area of good intention. Problem is, managing finances takes a daily diligence and attention that often runs counter to personality (not detail-oriented) or season of life (parent of preschooler), or both. Unless you’re one of those blessed ones who love to work with money, it’s likely parenting young children brings you to the end of the day ready to check Facebook, not online banking. I have a heartfelt desire to keep track of our money and use it wisely, but I’m not very detailed-oriented. On the plus side, I’m actually a cheapskate by nature, but that just means that little bits of money tend to slips away unnoticed versus big hunks at a time.
So you get my picture—I need some very simple, practical ideas that can bring my finances into order just like my schedule. I need some ideas that work for me, in the midst of my busy, chaotic mom-life.
Author Mary Hunt to the rescue. She wrote a bestseller, The Complete Cheapskate, which is her story of climbing out of cavernous consumer debt and becoming a champion of sane, balanced financial living. Also a regular columnist for Woman’s Day, Mary’s writing is clear, simple and fun. I can read her stuff at the end of a long day and still get something out of it.
Here are some steps I’m working on:
1) Find the spending leaks: Use a 3×5 card and have you and your spouse write down every expenditure you make for a month. Don’t change your spending habits. See where your money is going. If you’re honest and write down everything, get ready to be shocked.
2) 10/10/80 rule: Whatever income you have, save 10%, give away 10% and live off the rest. “If you make a commitment to apply this formula to the management of your money, it will forever change your life.” Write the “giving” checks the day you get paid, and deposit 10% into savings. Pretty simple stuff.
3) Write out how you will spend the 80%. While this can be more complicated, start by simply subtracting the monthly bills and every other upcoming expense you can think of, and consider how you will choose to spend what’s left, if there is any. Consider giving yourself a small amount of discretionary spending to ward off that feeling that you are in a financial strait-jacket. If you have even a little bit of money for yourself, you’ll find that your contentment and creativity will be activated while you work on solving the bigger problems.
That’s a good start whether you’re in serious debt and needing a big fix, or simply desiring to get to that next level of financial health. I’m banking on the fact that working on one, simple-to-achieve, good habit will again help me get to the next. At least that’s what this bossy blog keeps telling me.
-posted by Donna Detweiler, who would also recommend Dave Ramsey’s writings on financial health.