Budget Series Part 4: In The Meantime….

In case you are just finding me I have been writing about budgets and paying off debt. This is the fourth and final post (for now wink, wink) about budget. Today we are going to talk about in the meantime…

59445258-woman-crying

Photo Credit

Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

You have a budget, a plan to pay off debt, but what do you do in the meantime? Do you feel overwhelmed by the length of time it’s going to take you to pay off debt? Do you feel discouraged? Yes and yes. I do too. It didn’t take us long to get into this mess, but it is taking forever to get out of. We are the generation of now. Our kids will be the generation of- I needed that yesterday. Think about it. We have everything at our fingertips now. There is no waiting. We used to wait to receive a paper check and have to wait to take it to the bank, then wait for it to clear. Now checks are automatically deposited and the money is available the same day. We used to have to wait until we got home to call someone. Now we just use a cell phone that goes everywhere with us. I could go on with examples, but you get the point. We no longer wait or expect to have to wait on anything. How many times have you been mad at your spouse because they didn’t pick up the phone with you called their office? You didn’t leave a message but instead called their cell. When they didn’t pick that up you sent a text or email. Businesses treat their employees the same way. We have lost patience. We don’t leave messages any longer. Instead we try the four methods of contact (email, cell phone, text, and social media) to get an immediate answer. Because we don’t/don’t have to exercise patience in any other area of our life, we are out of practice. Paying off debt requires a lot, I repeat, a lot, of patience. When Thing 2 was little I tried to teach him patience. I use to tell him to hold onto his patience. He would form his hands into fists. As he sat waiting on his sippy cup to be refilled or our line to move forward in the grocery store I would ask if he needed more. “Yes, more!” I would reach in my pocket and grab some patience and give them to him. If he was really running low on patience I would pretend to feed them to him. They went straight to his belly and he would give me 2 more minutes. God has prepared us a meal of patience in His word. Philippians 4:6 says ,”Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” His word is full of meals of patience. Matthew 6:25-34, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” What’s my point? When you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, discouraged, or down, feed yourself with the word of God. Wait on the Lord! Psalm 27:14, “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”

Malachi 3:10

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LordAlmighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

In the meantime… be faithful and obedient. Tithe. Give your first fruits, 10%, to God. Holy cow do I know how painful it was the first time we tithed a full 10%! I know that reluctance, I know that thought of really? That’s like a car payment! Been there. It doesn’t matter. It was never yours to begin with. Tithing is what God tells us to do. It doesn’t matter if we don’t feel like it. We simply choose to obey or not. God can’t release His financial blessings over you until you obey. Which leads to me our story. When we first moved to Texas, one of my prayers to God was that we would get out of debt so I could be a SAHM (stay at home mom). I was a project manager in my former life in the business world. Big surprise there, right? When we moved, I got a job as a temp at a big company. God blessed me with a raise in my salary that was about 30k more than I was making in Florida. I knew it was not because I was that sought after, or that good at my job: I knew it was God. Only God. I told the Man I felt we needed to tithe my whole first paycheck (all 100% of it) as a seed in paying off our debt. He looked at me like I was nuts. We really needed that paycheck to jump start our debt buster. We prayed and both felt that was what needed to happen so when I got my first paycheck, the entire paycheck went in the tithe. Within three months God blessed us with another 20k raise and a job down the street from my home working at the same place as the Man. If you are keeping track I had now moved up to almost 50k in my salary because of our obedience to move to Texas and to tithe my first check as a seed. It. was. awesome! We were paying off debt super fast! Then I got pregnant with Thing 2. God was pouring out the blessings left and right. Five months into my pregnancy with Thing 2 I was laid off. My current job was relocating to Seattle. I was given the opportunity to move with it, but knew that was not God’s plan. I received a severance and that was that. I remember everyone at work talking about the girl who got laid off and she was 5 months pregnant. Weird to hear people talking about you, around you, and they have no idea you are that girl. We were so close to paying off our debt. We got discouraged for a few weeks with our lack of understanding. But God. He took care of it all and within a few months He showed us where we had money and we were CC debt free. It never made sense to us on paper how we did it so fast because it was never our doing, it was always God. He is the one who made it happen. We can not alone. You do need help. You need God’s help. Be faithful, pray, tithe, and be purposeful with your money.

Paying off debt and living debt free is a way of life. It means making sure you have a plan for everything including meals and snacks. Thus why I menu plan. You cannot go to the store and spend your money wisely without a plan: otherwise, you are roaming the aisles, putting meals together in your head on the fly, throwing way more snacks than you need in your buggy and just overdoing it financially. When shopping, always look at the very top or the very bottom of the shelves for the product you desire. Never the middle or the end of the aisle. The most expensive items in that product line are located there. The grocery store is set up for the unplanned shopper. That is a fact. There is an entire industry built around consumer behavior and every major retail company has a per sale goal that they are using their science against you to attain. Ever wonder why your Target bill is always $75-$100?

If you menu plan, you will find that you won’t do the five o’clock stare into the pantry and refrigerator. You won’t wonder what to pack your kids for lunch every morning. You won’t have to worry about what to give your toddler for a snack in the middle of their 4 o’clock melt down. I have four kids and I homeschool which means I have to plan ahead for every meal and every snack. I get tired, unmotivated, and burnt out. When I menu plan I throw in at least 4 quick easy meals. Most of the time those are meals that can go in my crock pot. I do make snacks and lunches ahead of time, or least prep what I can the night before. I often spend my Saturday morning making the bread, the muffins for breakfast, or the breakfast bars for the following week. I didn’t say this is easy. Planning ahead allows me to resist the urge for quick fixes. Quick fixes meaning fast food, take out, and delivery. Plan and budget for big ticket items that are coming up: Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and vacations. Planning ahead changes your perspective. Instead of winging it and throwing it on a credit card, you are now in control and telling your money where to go each paycheck. You have a plan.

Pray over every check you send out. Over the weekend we paid off a credit card that we have grown to loathe (I am sure we all have that one)! This company was so sneaky that they kept lowering the minimum payment so that the interest each month was greater than the minimum payment. We were paying them money to go further in debt each statement (KEEP AN EYE ON THAT). It was so exciting to pay that final payment. Inside my head I was doing backflips and a jig. Physically the noose around my neck got a little looser and my shoulders feel a little lighter. Before you click confirm on that computer screen or lift that flag on the mailbox, pray together. Even if it is over the phone. Thank God that He brought you through that debt and ask for continued strength and guidance as you wait to be delivered from the next.

There is one more thing I want to share with you that we do. When the Man receives a bonus each year we tithe our 10% and then we give the Things a small bonus. We look at our family unit as a team. We all support the Man all year long while he works hard to provide for us. When the bonus comes we give a small reward to our Things for being supportive and to show them that this is a family effort. They each receive a determined amount that they can then spend on whatever they want within their budget. They look forward to this every year and it teaches them patience, budgeting, and rewards them for being part of our family team. The rest of this year’s bonus went towards immediate needs and debt. I never. ever. let it sit. Ever. Not when there is debt to be paid. It’s too easy to spend that money on other things that you can justify and get off track. The devil is sitting on your shoulder waiting for your weakest moment to whisper a little something in your ear about spending it here… or wouldn’t it be nice if we… if I had a few hundred I could… DON’T FALL FOR IT! Have a plan and tell your money where to go as soon as you get it!

In closing, I want you to know you are not alone. Don’t be ashamed because you are in debt. Instead, be proud because you are on this journey and have a plan to get out of it. Remember to pray, go to God to be “fed” some patience, and stick with it. As always, I am here to bounce ideas off of and listen. I can’t do it for you but I can pray with you while you go through it. Purpose to be debt free and in the meantime plan and pray. You can do this! I promise! Wait on the Lord and have patience to see it through! God bless.

I love to hear from my readers. Sometimes there are crickets out there. If you haven’t yet, please sign up to have my posts sent directly to your email account. The field to do so is directly under the Mommy Blogger Button!

Budget Series Part 3: A Finance Binder

Good morning! I met Ashley on Instagram a few weeks ago. When I started the budget series she mentioned she was updating her finance binder. I asked if she would write up a post about how to put together a binder for those of you who may prefer to have your information in a binder versus a spreadsheet. Ashley is super sweet and you can find her over at Ashbloom.

Today, I have finished compiling my finance binder! Woohoo! If you know me, you know that I LOVE organization. This binder is key to success at managing finances. Have you ever forgot to pay a bill. Life gets hectic with the kids and work and sometimes we miss these things! I wanted to let you know that you are not alone! The bills that aren’t always fresh on my mind are the auto draft bills. My financial life has become less complicated since we started using www.mint.com (financial budgeting website). I have the app on my phone so that I can have access any time. It sends me weekly reminders via email and pops up messages on my phone when I haven’t read my “alerts” (essentially, reminders that you have a bill coming up. I balance my checkbook pretty much on a daily basis. I like to know to the penny what is coming in and going out. I guess that is why my husband hired me to be his bookkeeper for his business! I loved Accounting when I was in high school! I finally decided to take our personal finances up a notch by starting a finance binder. It merely keeps me more organized and on top of things. First, you just need a simple three ring binder. I recommend a 2 inch binder at least! You can design the cover however you please! Here’s a pic of my cover:

photo-copy-6

Next, I inserted a poly zip envelope….This was a pain to find in stores! I finally found at Office Max for $2.19. This is a great place to store pens, pencils, extra tabs, calculator, highlighter, etc. All the necessary supplies will be at your fingertips!

photo-copy-7

After the poly envelope, I put a spiral notebook in the binder. Note, mine will be changed to college ruled! I like to write small! This notebook will be used for any notes that I may need to jot down.

photo-copy-8

I bought some sheet protectors that will be perfect for storing my stamps, return address labels, and envelopes inside my binder. I blurred out the bottom part, didn’t want to make my address public!

photo-copy-3

After these pages, I printed a blank calendar from my computer, and inserted into a sheet protector in my binder. I also purchased a planner from Target on clearance for $2.98 to keep with my binder. This way I can see the months ahead. Inside my binder, I only do one month at a time. Each month I will be cleaning out my binder and filing away all my important papers. The main goal is to be organized. Yes, I am OCD to the max, but you can do it on a level that you are comfortable. I will be going through the calendar and writing the bills that are due on each day. After I make the payment, I am going to highlight them with a marker. Don’t forget to write down your auto draft payments here! Notice, I am starting fresh with March! Most of my February bills are paid, so I figured that starting in a new month would be best for me! Do what works for you!

photo-copy-13

photo-copy-9

I’ve included a “Get It Done” printable that I found on the internet. This is for me to keep track of what I need to accomplish!

photo-copy-10

Next, I found a weekly printable that will help me keep track of each individual week. I printed one out for each week in the month and filed in my folder using index dividers.

photo-copy-11

At the very back of my binder, I have a poly button folder that I can use to hold bills that come in that need to be paid. Once I pay a bill, I’m going to use a three hole punch and put the bill in my folder under the corresponding week and mark paid. I already write the check number for each bill I pay on the actual bill. This way, it will be filed in my folder within reach if I need it!

photo-copy-12

Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel! I don’t have this program on my Mac at this time, so that’s why I am using the printables. Trust me, I LOVE SPREADSHEETS!!! This way is just a fast, simple way to put together a binder and become more efficient at managing your money!

I hope this was beneficial to you! Please comment if you have any questions! Also, I love it when people share their suggestions with me! I hope each of you have a blessed day! Happy budgeting!

Love in Christ,

Ashley

Budget Series Part 2: Creating a Debt Buster

The rich rule over the poor,and the borrower is servant to the lender.
Proverbs 22:7

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

In case you are just finding me, this is part two of a budget series I am running on my blog. This part is about how to create a debt buster. I started with the intention of just writing two posts about budget and debt. I have at least two more on the horizon. Turns out there is more I wanted to share than I initially thought! Let’s just dive right in today, shall we?

If you are in debt, even a little, you understand the pull of the noose from debt. It sucks the joy, the fun, the hope right out of your world. It can seem like no matter how much you plan or how much you put towards a debt, it never seems to make a dent. The devil will tell you there is no hope so why even try. Been there. Twice actually. The Man and I know first hand what it is like to be debt free. The freedom, the joy, the huge, huge strain that is lifted from your marriage. From your life. As I type now, we are on our second journey to wiping out our debt. We hope to be completely debt free of credit card and student loan debt by next spring. The first go around we never paid off college loans. If you will be prayerful, purposeful, mindful, and obedient, you will get out of debt. I will talk more about that when I wrap up this series. First, let’s talk about your plan for a second. Now that you have a clear picture of your income versus spend every pay check you can lay out a clear plan of attack. First order of business is to trim the fat. What is fat? Cable, land lines for phones, nails, pedicures, coffees, movies, eating out… all of that is fat. Trim it off. Secondly, in order to be really serious and really committed you have to get in the frame of mind to really truly pay off your debt. What do you mean? I am all about getting rid of my debt. Really? Then cut up your credit cards right now. Stop reading this post and go do it before you talk yourself out of it. As long as that plastic is still whole, you will mentally use those cards as your back up system, your bail me out money. Don’t believe me?

Look, this is our second go around with this. I can tell you exactly where we went wrong. We paid off credit card debt BUT 1.)didn’t keep with the Dave Ramsey plan after we paid off our CC debt. We did NOT continue to build savings, start college funds, and pay off our home. 2.) We didn’t cut up our credit cards because we knew we could both restrain from using them. That is, until we got scared. Two years ago the Man took a HUGE step in faith and left his job. We had just had Thing 3. He was a newborn, literally 5 weeks old, when the Man left his job. Without a back up job. That job was tearing us apart and turning him into a man of fear who made his job his idol. We prayed for 7 solid months for God to only open one door for him to walk through. We were afraid we would take the wrong job. Seven months! Out of fear, we started using our credit cards. We had money in our accounts but he had just quit his job in the absolute worst economic climate of our lifetime. No one was crazy enough to walk away from a job during that time. We received confirmation from God that it was time for him to leave and so we obeyed and he left his job two days later. We trusted God to bring us through it, but we used our credit cards just in case. Fear. Fear. Fear.

Do Not Fear! It is the most repeated verse in the Bible. It is said at least 365 times in the Bible. One time for every day of the year. Fear will make you do or not do a lot of things. If we had continued with what God had told us to do in the beginning, pay off our debt (including our home), we would not have used those cards to begin with. Fear took over. We knew about fear. We had faith enough to obey, we had confidence enough that God would provide, but fear allowed us to justify using the cards. *Shaking my head* You could build a sermon around our story. Really. Just cut up the credit cards. If you are going to trust God to pull you through this, then trust God to pull you through.

Now that you have shredded your plastic let’s make a plan. I am a person who likes simple organization. I don’t like complicated things that take me forever to figure out or put together. The simpler, the better. What that means for you is that you are going to build a debt buster plan from the very same spreadsheet you created your budget from. I like to see an immediate picture, an overall picture, and a future outline of what and when. This is a snap shot of our very first Debt Buster. Again, if you click on the picture it will be enlarged for you.

Screen Shot 2013-02-19 at 10.51.57 PM

The first tab of the Debt Buster Spreadsheet is a summary tab that reflects the total debt for each credit card, the starting balance of each card (start column), the ending balance (current), and the annual percentage rate (APR). To the right of each card (Payment plans) I was using each row to estimate how long it would take to pay off each card with each paycheck. At the bottom of the spreadsheet is a running total showing us how much was left in debt by adding all the ending balances together. Use the formula =sum(Cell number to start adding + cell number to end adding). That formula will auto calculate your totals for you. Why did I include the starting balance of each card? Well, I am a visual person. I need to see progress to feel progress. I hope that makes sense. I need to be able to look back at where we started and say, “Wow! Thank you, Lord!”

The rest of the spreadsheets in the workbook entails a tab for each credit card. We created a column for date payment paid (Date), the amount paid (Payments), and the remaining amount owed. At the top of the tab we noted the starting balance and the annual percentage rate of that particular credit card. As we paid off each card, we turned the tab green to show it was PIF (paid in full). Dave’s plan of attack with credit cards is to start with the smallest debt to the largest. Snowballing the payments into the next debt and the next debt and so on. Thus he calls this step the “debt snowball”. His logic is that getting out of debt is an emotional process not a logical process and seeing debts fall off gives you the momentum to keep going. We have followed his method as a whole, but at times we have cheated to pay off a higher APR debt out of order to the original plan. Choose the method that gives you the most motivation.

debt

This should help you start to visualize and create how you want your debt buster to look like, what you want to see, and what order you want to pay off your debt. Sometimes creating a plan is the hardest part. Hopefully this helped you get over that hurdle and get you on your way. For those who get pay checks every two weeks, there are two times in the year that you get an extra pay check. This month and again in August. As you budget and plan be sure to have those extra pay checks (if you receive them) already accounted for in your debt buster. That is what I like to call chunk change. You can throw it at one debt and make a dent! Take a look at your pay schedules for the rest of the year so you can have a better grasp of it all and can prepare for those moments to throw chunk change at your debt.

I have decided to write a third post in the budget series about what we did with chunks change that would come in from stock, income tax returns, or bonus’. I will also talk about how planning ahead is a life style when you decide to be debt free. Tomorrow I will have a guest blogger, Ashley, share how she is tracking her families’ finances and debt using a binder instead of a computer.

As part of our journey we read a number of books on money. We found that Dave Ramsey’s teachings are some of the best out there.

Finally, one more resource you will want to know about is mint.com. It’s the new online tool that helps you keep track of all of your accounts, spending, and debt automatically. Go to Mint to watch the video and see if it’s something that could be your solution.

I am here to offer suggestions and encouragement in this journey. I can show you how we did it and what worked for us, but in the end, it is yours to play with and make your own. Please feel free to come to me with questions and suggestions.

I love to hear from my readers. Sometimes there are crickets out there. If you haven’t yet, please sign up to have my posts sent directly to your email account. The field to do so is directly under the Mommy Blogger Button!

Budget Series Part 1: How to build a budget

Since I am Organized SAHM, I thought it was time to show you how I organize our budget. I am sure many of you have your versions of this. I am always looking for easier, more organized ways to do things so please share your secrets. This is Part 1 of a 2 Part series I am writing. So there is time for you to share! PS if you would like a copy of this budget, please comment below and I will email it to you so you can get started right away!

Budgets are a very tricky beast. It’s always changing. I feel like I am always moving things around or changing what I thought I had set in stone. That’s how a budget works. If you do it right it’s as simple as telling your money where to go without thinking about it. Paul and I paid off around $36,000 in debt back in 2007. Crazy right? We prayed over every seed that was sown and every check that went out. We give all the glory to God because it was a mountain that we could not move alone. It was a daily prayer and it was God that moved that mountain.

Let’s chat real quick about how you make a budget. If you are married, you are going to have to decide at some point if you are going to combine accounts. We have tried it both ways. I am here to tell you our marriage is alive and well because we have one checking account and one savings account. End of story. Those of you who can operate separately, I have no idea why or how you do it. Now that you have that figured out how you are going to budget lets work on the what. Jot down every single thing that you spend per paycheck. If you don’t know, pull up your bank account on line and start making categories: groceries, food, gas, tolls, tithe, clothes, haircuts, credit cards, mortgage or rent, car payment, insurance, health insurance, doctor bills, lawn care, home care, pest control, and oil changes. These are just some right off of the top of my head.

Next, jot down any income that you can count on coming in week to week. Once you have time to do that it’s time to make a budget that you can work with online and not track on paper.

Let’s build a spread sheet. I am going to include a snap shot of a blank one for you. I use Excel. It’s my favorite for budgets. The formulas are simple and I know it best.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 10.43.55 PM

Across the top, going from left to right are these columns: Paycheck amount (the amount you get paid each pay check), Due Date (the date your bill is due), Debtor (who you owe money to), Amount due, Highlight if paid/check number (I highlight the whole box if it is paid using the fill bottom at the top of the excel spreadsheet. I like to use yellow for paid.)

Box 2 on the left has $0.00. This is generally where the amount you receive each pay check will be.

Starting in line 4, you would fill out all of those boxes going horizontally for each debt. Below is a example of a filled out spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 11.02.33 PM

If you click on the picture, it will enlarge for you. I didn’t know if you knew that so I thought I would share that tip. Back to the picture above. I have filled it in with made up numbers to give you an idea of what a filled out spreadsheet looks like. Every other week is a different budget based off of your bill schedule and needs. My pretend budget is planned assuming you get paid bi-weekly.

Notice in the March 8th budget I quit putting money into savings. At this point we are going to assume you have a nest egg of $1,000.00 in your savings account. We follow the Dave Ramsey method, so that is your first order of business before paying off debt. Build an emergency fund of $1,000.00 first then tackle the rest. So, lets say you know (knowing and planning ahead is key in a budget) that you have to kennel the dog for a night or two while you travel for work sometime in March. Go ahead and put that in your budget so it’s there and you aren’t taking from your emergency fund. Again, March 22 budget, you know that HOA fees are due, go ahead and budget that ahead of time.

Go to field F15 it should read $2,481.00. Did I manually add up all of the amount dues to get this number? No. The formula you need to get this number is =Sum(D2+D15). What does the stuff in the parenthesis mean (I only bolded and italicized so you would find it quickly)? Those are the cells that have the amount dues in them. I highlighted from the top down with my cursor so my formula would add those numbers together. Now you can compare cell F15 (what you spend) with cell A2 (what you make). You could go a step further and have it automatically subtract the two numbers from each other to leave you with a positive or negative balance, but I want to keep this simple for today.

If there are certain things or habits that you want to enjoy but tend to over do, budget them with a visa or gift card. For instance, if you are a Starbucks addict (guilty as charged so I have to do this part myself), get a gift card and budget $15 per pay check and charge up your gift card with that $15. Once you run out of money on the gift card that’s it until the next pay check. If your spouse or you like to eat out for lunch, get him or yourself a visa and put that amount you have budgeted just for work lunches. I can’t tell you how many times we use to fight over that very thing. Budget your lunch! Better yet bring it, but I understand the need to network over lunch as well. If you like to get your nails done, budget it. At the end of the day you play with it until you get it to a point where you can afford your lifestyle. That may mean you actually get to see for the first time that you can’t afford your lifestyle and have to trim the fat so to say.

Next week I will show you what our debt buster looks like. Not our actual one, but one with made up numbers so you can see how I track it. Because I am the more organized of us two, I do take care of the budget. We do have budget meetings, we do plan out the order we knock out our debt and the man pretty much let’s me run with it and trusts me to take care of it. I don’t take my responsibility lightly. It is covered in prayer between us both. We will talk more about that next week when we talk about paying off debt.

That’s it. I hope this wasn’t too confusing. Please feel free to ask me questions.

Look for a post from the Man this week about the Marriage Challenge. I am praying for ya’ll. I hope you are praying for me!

I love to hear from my readers. Sometimes there is crickets out there 🙂 If you haven’t yet, please sign up to have my posts sent directly to your email account. The field to do so is directly under the Mommy Blogger Button!