What if I told you that you could give yourself a raise without talking to your boss? No, I'm not here to promote some get rich quick scheme, I'm talking about budgeting. According to a recent study by U.S. Bank, only 41% of Americans say they use a budget. With a national debt of 21 trillion dollars it should come at no surprise that America doesn't have the greatest money management skills. We just aren't great savers.
Think about it this way, if you had an emergency costing near $500 today, could you cover it without borrowing money or selling something? According to a survey by BankRate, 69% of polled Americans don't have $1000 in savings. Why is this a problem? Well, $1000 can turn into $7000 really quick when you're using a credit card. But what if you didn't have to use that credit card ever again? Well actually, you don't. It's a matter of discipline, not salary. I'm just going to go ahead and let you in on a little secret. Budgeting alone can find you hundreds of dollars a month that you didn't realize you had.
Before we started budgeting, life was a bit tough. My husband had been denied by the military for a second surgery and was in process of being medically discharged. The military had messed up some paperwork so he wasn't getting paid while he was on military disability which lasted around 10 months until he was (finally) discharged. To say this was difficult is an understatement. We were going into debt fast. I remember I had reached the limit of my USAA credit card and I think that's what broke me. That was the red line and we had just crossed it.
Thankfully, I had turned the radio on and found Dave Ramsey talking about how great it would be to not have any debt, any mortgage, and to be free of financial burden. He had people on whose student loan debt was higher than my mortgage and that they paid it off in a matter of years. Not lifetimes, not decades, years. I was hooked. I got home and immediately created an account with their free budgeting software, EveryDollar.
That first month was hard and we went over our budget in almost every category. But I stuck to it. To say my husband wasn't onboard is a lie because I don't think I actually told him about it until I was three months in and crying because we had no more money for eating out.
BUT, the first month (or few in our situation) is really a learning curve to see where you are spending all of your money. Then next month, cut it back. Obviously you can't cut back on some things but groceries and eating out are the biggest struggle with our budget and I'm sure you will find that to be true with yours as well. Our family of four budgets for theses as follows:
Groceries - $350/month
Restaurants - $150/month
Buying meat in bulk will be your saving grace as well as finding cheap and easy meals to cook at home. For those of you working all day a crock pot will be your best friend. We just made pulled pork that beats the taste of that Jack Daniel's microwaved meal (recipe here).
Now, it's your turn! We personally use EveryDollar because it's free and super user friendly. They also have an app so you can log your expenses in real time. Not wanting to log them? They have an upgrade to connect your bank accounts so you just have to match the expenses to the correct category. We've never used the pro version but it may be right for you. Another route for ya'll that are tech savvy would be to create an excel spreadsheet.
If you're still stuck on where to start, read this article from EveryDollar on creating your first budget and as always feel free to leave a comment with any questions you may have! Are you a current or former military veteran? You could be eligible to sign up to take Financial Peace University for free! Just fill out this form and we will contact you to set everything up.
Anything that takes us out of our comfort zones for a while can act as a reminder that the past we are used to may not be our best future.