There are a few things that seem to drive us all crazy, for me some days there may be many. But one that definitely tops the list is the challenge of making ends meet—stretching the budget to pay the bills. It seems like we are always chasing that “I wish I could just get this figured out and keep it that way” illusive dream.
So we jump into a new program, a budgeting system, or a great resolution that tomorrow will be different. The problem is we don’t give ourselves a break, instead we look at the challenge and then beat ourselves up when we realize we can’t change it in just a few days. Oftentimes this leads us to get discouraged and just give up.
So relax and just get to the “turn my finances around” starting line.
1. Give yourself time.
None of us got to the place where our finances were driving us crazy overnight. Turning the ship around won’t be an overnight process either. And that is very OK!
2. Don’t make a budget until you know what you spend.
Take a month or two and write down everything your money leaves your wallet for. Not what you think you’re going to spend, but what you really do.
3. Add those spending items up.
Now don’t freak out; just take some time to ponder them. Are there items you can eliminate? Do you want it or do you need it? Can you shop for better prices on what you purchase (cell phone, insurance, food)? Do not beat yourself up at this point, just process. When you see what you spend it will help you find places where you can make a change.
4. Decide what really matters to you.
I truly love the end of the rows at Target. They have the coolest stuff that just should be a part of my world. But if I give it a second thought I probably love other things a whole lot more. Like my peace of mind. So don’t spend on anything that isn’t important, even if it’s ever-so-cute.
5. Plan for the surprise.
Once you get a handle on your everyday life expenditures, the next step is to identify big bills that may come in once or twice a year—or the “did my car really break down again?” inevitable life challenges and add them in. Yes, we all want to think the surprises aren’t coming, but they will.
6. Choose a system.
Next, find a system that works for you to begin the budgeting process. There are a lot of good ones out there that will get you from your starting line to where you want to be. Just find one that doesn’t intimidate, overwhelm, or discourage. We all process money differently, so choose the one that works for you.
Remember this problem, if dealt with and resolved over time, can be fixed! This is a temporary challenge, whether it takes six months, two years—or 10. The freedom that comes when it does is amazing. You really can change your life so that you are managing your money and it isn’t managing you!
For more money and budgeting tips, read Confessions of an Endcap Queen: How to Stop Mindless Purchasing, How to Improve Your Credit Score, and Mom Hacks: 10 Easy Ways to Save Time and Money