Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stop what you are doing and read this. Right now.

Hi everyone. I want to introduce you to someone...this is my friend Beth (and her adorable daughter). I have know Beth since high school. We went our separate ways after high school and were reconnected 3 years ago. There are days that we talk a lot. Seriously, a lot. She is a dear friend who I trust fully. I trust her opinion, I seek advice and counsel from her, we pray for each other and share secrets. We also laugh a lot. She rocks.

Beth is one of the most financially responsible people that I know. This is really inspiring because she is not an elder, she is my age. She is tempted by all the "stuff" that I am. And yet she makes remarkable decisions. She has a lot of great advice to offer about budgeting. I thought her advice might be helpful and/or inspiring to some of you. Enjoy!

Sabrina asked if I would share a few budget tips with the Noodles and Milk readers. Of course, I said yes because I'm addicted to saving money. Watching my savings account grow is one of my favorite pastimes. Followed closely by eating chocolate covered Oreos. Yum.

1. Write it down. Tonight. Sit down with your significant other (and older children if you'd like to include them) and put your budget on paper in black and white. Or blue if you prefer. Figure out how much is coming in and going out every month.

Don't try and write out a budget for the entire year-this is NOT effective. Each month your family has different financial needs dependent on everything from the weather (utility costs) to birthday celebrations (gotta pay for that party!). In our house, we budget by paycheck rather than month-so every two weeks we sit down to write a new one. Believe me, taking a little extra time to figure out where your money is going (and telling it where to go) makes for a lot more peace in the home.

2. Stick to It. Make sure your budget isn't a "pie in the sky" plan. It needs to be realistic. If you know that you are going to order pizza once a week because cooking just sounds like too much work (I've been there...oh, just about every night), great! Budget for it. If it's not in the budget, don't do it. Budgets aren't set in stone, but they are guides and should be followed. Next month, review how you did and make necessary changes. And in the end, when you have a monthly surplus of money, it will be worth the little sacrifices here and there.

3. Pay Yourself. Even better-pay yourself automatically. Most banks will let you transfer a set amount of money (like a direct deposit) automatically into your savings on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. It's much much easier to build a savings account this way. Money that you never see will not get spent. The old adage that you live off what you earn is true. Just pretend you earn a little less and put more money away for a rainy day.

4. Know your weaknesses. I have a good friend with the best of intentions to get out of debt and stick to a budget. But every so often she decides that she "needs" something, even if she doesn't have the cash and splurges. Putting it all on a credit card. Not good, people. Know your weakness-my friend's weakness is a handy credit card that she ought to cut into teeny tiny pieces. Mine is Chick-Fil-A. Without some self discipline, I could break the entire budget in one week with my Chick-Fil-A habit. In fact, to help me out, we've gone to a cash only food budget. Now when the cash is gone, it's gone. I'm a lot less tempted to spend too much eating out now, knowing that the money has to last a couple of weeks.

What's your weakness? Shoes? Accessories? Kid clothes? Deals? Remember that you can add a little bit of money into your realistic budget for these things, but only if you can afford it and when the money is gone, it's gone.

5. Live within your means. Just because your parents, friends, neighbors, etc have something, does not mean that you need it. I love the mantra, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." In fact, I'm often telling my husband that I just want to live like the Amish-a simple life sounds so peaceful and financially sound. I loved Sabrina's post about selling "things." It's a great way to add to your savings or pay down your debt AND simplify your life. A couple of weeks ago, I sold my wedding dress on Ebay and put the money into savings. The money in savings is doing me a heck of a lot more than the dress was hanging in my closet taunting me with its size 4 tag.

There is a time and season for everything, including owning nice cars, taking covetable vacations, and collecting electronic gadgets. That time and season is when you can afford it. NOT afford the payments. Afford to pay cash. My parents scrimped and saved, bought second hand and always paid cash. Growing up, we didn't drive fancy cars or wear expensive brands, but my parents are reaping the benefits of their financial decisions now. Currently, they own (as in paid in full) 5 nice cars and 2 homes. Just in the last year they have been on an Alaskan cruise, to New Zealand, Hawaii, and several trips across the United States to visit various family members. They are in a financial position to give back and do so generously. That sounds like a pretty good life to me. Moral of the story: Budget and save. You CAN do it. It is exhilarating to watch your debt decrease and your savings accumulate.

6. Find pleasure in saving money. Don't think of yourself as a poor victim, looking around at what others "have" (that the banks actually own). Be proud that you are in control of your money. Spray paint second hand furniture with happy colors (we have a bright orange $15 dresser in my son's room), cheer when you sell your kids' old clothes on Ebay, and reward yourself when you pay off a debt.

7. Do yourself a favor and read a Dave Ramsey book. It will most likely change your life. I was a skeptic-mainly because I was already budgeting and saving money, but his book was entertaining and gave me the extra jolt I needed to really get serious.

If you'd like to follow, I share deals and free stuff here. Read other posts I've written about saving money on my blog.

Wasn't that great? I hope that you learned something new or was at least inspired by her words. I do have a couple of things to add to her article.

1- If you do not already follow her deals facebook page...join it now. Trust me, it is awesome.

2- As Beth described her parents lifestyle, I can attest to the fact that my inlaws are in the same position. They lived most of their 20's, 30's and 40's super frugal and were extremely financially responsible. They made tough decisions and because of those decisions, they are able to live an amazing lifestyle now. They own 3 homes and paid CASH for all 3 of them. They buy a new luxury car every 3 years and PAY CASH every time. They have established large college funds for all 7 of their grandchildren. They give away a very considerable amount of their income every year. And they are retired. At 60 years old. They just took a 2 week roadtrip from Texas to Florida just because. And there are a lot more details like that if you dig deeper. I cannot help but be inspired by their story.

I hope this has been informational and inspiring. If you have any other tips or stories to share, I would love to hear them!



So Bella said...

Awesome! I really enjoyed reading this. A lot of my friends think that having more stuff means they will be happier, have better status, etc. All things I don't really care about, just that we're happy & healthy. I am also trying to make do with what we have, repurpose items, etc. Will definitely be reading more of Beth's posts :)

Mary said...

Loved this! I love Dave Ramsey too.

Debby said...

My biggest thing for spending money were scrapbook supplies! I just kepton buying new stuff en never used the old supplies. I could open my own store, trust me!
We set up a group at Let's Scrap ( where we are all trying to scrap our stash instead of hoarding the newest stuff. And really: It works. I was tempted to buy some stuff online yesterday but because of the group I did not.
It also helps to unsubscribe all kinds of newsletter or ads from online stores.
And even though deals might be great, I really now think about if I do need it or not. And most of the times I really don't need it. Or actually, I don't need it at all, LOL.
Thanks for this post, really helpful!

*katie said...

So many great tips and very inspiring! My husband and I just started working on our budget and we currently feel a little down hearted...but, I know it will get better sticking to a budget! Costco and Target are my biggest weakness...I'm cutting down the number of trips I take along with taking a shopping list that I MUST stick to:) Thanks for the tips Bethany!!

PearlsForMyGirls said...

This is great! I recently changed to working part time and all of the advice given was really great for me to read.

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