I have never bothered looking for a budgeting journal because nothing ever fit the way my mind does things. Everything always has too many lines for this area and not enough for that area. Some budget books are super cute, but expensive. But I don’t have any desire to spend money on a journal that might not work for me.
My mom, bless her, knows I love to write and buys me about 4 blank hard bound journals a year so I have stashes of them. I grabbed one on January 3rd of this year determined to bring order and a system to our despicable financial chaos. Things weren’t good. Neither of us knew the due dates of bills and both of us had kind of resigned to just throwing some away without opening them because it was overwhelming. REALLY immature and shameful to admit that this is where we were as a couple, but to date we’ve paid off roughly $18,000 so God has used that embarrassment to motivate us to live a different lifestyle!!
Have you you heard of Dave Ramsey!? I took an enrichment class in high school where we learned his principles for an entire trimester and while I never applied them until 10 years later, I’ve never forgotten his snowball method. In January of 2017, a year ago, we thought about doing his 7 steps to financial freedom, which I’ll expand on in another post, but because I’m so extreme and Ryan is so balanced, we never could agree on anything. In January of THIS year, we said okay. Enough is enough. Let’s give ourselves plenty of space to LIVE, but let’s kick the debt and live a financially free life!
SO FOR THE PURPOSES OF BEING TACTFUL AND DISCREET, all numbers are fictitious. I just came upstairs to my bed and hammered out an exact replica of my budget journal with numbers I made up.
Im honestly giddy about posting this because it has helped us so much, so let’s dive in!! The first picture I posted is what you’d see if you opened up my budget book, different numbers of course. But I have it laid out to make sense to me and so that my husband can open it and it is clear what is due on which date and how much. Very straight forward.
The second page is helpful with all account information and phone numbers or websites so that I can sit down each pay day and pay anything I can that is due in a two week time period, since I budget bi-weekly for us. Usually, I strap the kids into their car seats and drive around until the baby falls asleep, pull in somewhere for a few French fries and turn on the DVD player in the minivan so that I’m able to make my calls in peace.
I went ahead and wrote down every single pay date Ryan has (they aren’t the 1st and 15th of each month but for ease and speed in making this post I did that). Depending on whether or not he has overtime, his pay can change and I’ll write down what he made. This helps for two things, 1. when I make my bi-weekly budget, I can easily find from when-to-when the budget needs to be written for. 2. I can keep track of the income without having to search through my bank app or print statements. I also like having any work bonus or tax refund jotted down for reference.
The next page is all of the expenses that I know are going to happen each year, but that aren’t going to be monthly. Having an easy reference to them all allows me to jot myself a note in my budget: remember to save $$ for xyz next month. It’s amazing how scatter brained I can be about forgetting things that really add up. We pay $200 to get our taxes done every February, so in my REAL sinking fund list, I’ve got that. I’d probably forget all about it until the day came if it wasn’t in there.
I have all of my debts listed in ascending order because of how the snowball method works, BUT I also have whether or not something has interest or at which percent so that I can make a wise and informed choice about how I’m paying something off. This might not be Dave’s exact advice, and some people follow him to an absolute T, but for ME, I like to have it all in front of me about where my money will go next.
So the way I have things set up here is what I’m the most proud of sharing! How nerdy is it that this is probably not even that original, and that I’m really excited to share it!!!!
A monthly budget plan is something we wrote down a hundred times but never stuck to, and it’s because my husband’s paydays fall sometimes where we have an extra $xyz or sometimes we are way short $xyz. I buy groceries every week, and we get gas weekly, so this is something that works well in my head. That IS my real grocery budget however! Say what ya will! I ball out on groceries, sorry. The cable, electric, natural gas, and car insurance are real numbers too. My husband is in school, so we have internet/cable package that if we canceled the cable on would only knock the price down $18.
So I’ve got this set up by date, from when one paycheck is received to the day before the next paycheck hits our bank account. We technically DO live paycheck to paycheck I guess. Listen. We don’t have the best self control and are not just disciplined at saving money. If it’s there we tend to spend it. Save the lectures, we are getting there! This is what I have to do to prevent us from not having money in our account for a bill:
When the paycheck comes in, I do the French fry minivan thing where I pay every bill I can for the next two weeks, take out cash for groceries and gas. I check to see if this pay period is a week we are short or over so that I can plan next pay period accordingly. Let’s say it’s an “over” pay period. Then I might pick two or three bills from the next pay period and pay them. If not, I will take some money out and put it in a separate bank account where we keep our $1,000 emergency fund (EF) so it stays out of sight/mind until we need it. THEN I pay off debt with whatever is left leaving some fun money for us.
One big thing Ryan had, being a Marine and twice veteran of Afghanistan as well as a cancer survivor is that he didn’t want us to not enjoy life. He knows I get extreme and would maybe choose to pay off debt instead of taking the kids on a spontaneous zoo trip. There has to be balance. The Dave Ramsey Facebook groups are full of a variety of people ranging from PUT THE KIDS IN A CLOSET WITH BEANS AND RICE AND DONT TURN ON YOUR HEAT AND WALK THIRTY MILES FOR GROCERIES TO SAVE GAS OR BETTER YET DONT EAT to those who have found a lot of balance and good principles to apply. I think we have found that these principles are awesome to apply and are doing what works for us.
So I realize I didn’t explain the snowball method. First things absolutely first are your 4 walls. This means you need to be current on all payments, have food, clothes, gasoline etc for your family before you’re using any extra for debts. Next you’ve gotta have that $1,000 emergency fund somewhere so that when life happens AND IT DOES HAPPEN WHETHER YOU HAVE THE MONEY TO COVER IT OR NOT! You’re not stuck scrambling and throwing your electric payment at a broken window repair ( done that!)
THEN! You snowball babayyyy! You work that extra money you’ve got in your budget by paying the minimums due on all debts except that smallest guy, you’re gonna throw all your extra money at him, and once he’s paid for, you take his minimum due and all that same extra money you used to throw at him, and throw it at the next biggest guy.
Im really excited to share this on the off-chance anyone has a thinking cap like mine and has a desire to become debt free, I hope seeing this on paper helps!
It really does stink to be out that extra money each month that you could’ve used on amazon prime crap, but paying off debt is an amazing feeling.
I look forward to writing MANY more blog posts about the Dave Ramsey journey we’ve been on, through a Karbon filter.
And hey, $18,000 isn’t too shabby for 8.5 months, right???