Do you ever have “big” months during the year? I’m talking about months where everything seems to happen – birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, vacations, Back to School, the car tags need to be renewed, property tax is due, you have to make an emergency trip out of town, and you’ve agreed to provide 600 cookies for the fall kick-off at church?
August is that kind of month for us.
We have five birthdays in August – two granddaughters, a son, and two grandmothers. My dad is having back surgery this month, so I’m going down to Florida for a couple of weeks to help him out as he recovers. I’m leading our weekly ladies Bible study group up until I leave. I am hosting a ladies luncheon at the end of the month, and it’s time to renew our home owner’s and car insurance.
This is going to be a big month for us financially. Fortunately, Sam plans ahead for these kinds of things with our budget. Yep, that’s correct, I said BUDGET. In our house, that’s not a dirty word. In fact, it’s a word we are quite comfortable with, although it hasn’t always been that way. For the first three or four years of our marriage, the word budget was banned from our house. We didn’t talk about money, but we sure fought about it. We both walked around with smoldering pants constantly (and I’m not talking about newlywed passion here). And it wasn’t until our house of debt came crashing in around us that we began to change the way we thought about money.
“I like money. I have a little bit of it. I keep it in a jar on top of my refrigerator. I’d like to make more. That’s where you come in.” (Name that movie!)
Seriously, I don’t keep it on top of the refrigerator – I don’t want it to get greasy. Money has always been our friend. Sam and I are both born spenders. We didn’t need any special training to learn how to spend freely; and once the two of us got together, a train wreck was in our future. Some people are born savers – I don’t like them much, although I’ve learned to appreciate their willpower.
Because of our natural tendency to overspend, around the first of the year we sit down together and discuss our annual spending plan. We talk about birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, vacations, our emergency fund, investments, and big ticket items we need to save for, like new cars, insurance, and home improvements. And once we come to agreement on where our money is going to go, we write out our spending plan accordingly.
Every month we’re saving money and spending money according to our annual spending plan. So, by the time August rolls around and we’ve got five birthdays to spend for, we have the money saved up. When November rolls around and I’m wanting to start Christmas shopping, Sam hands me an envelope filled with cash and we head to town. When one of our vehicles finally craps out and we need to get a new one, we’ll have the cash for it because we’ve been saving up for a while. When our daughter delivers her fifth child, we’ll have the money saved up to make the trip to Nebraska to see the little tyke. When someone in our family has a financial crisis and needs help, we’ll be able to help them out because we’ve planned in advance for it.
Spending plans (or budgets, whichever you prefer to call them) help us stay out of financial crisis mode, and they help us stay a happily married couple. We don’t fight about money anymore. We don’t hide the mail from each other, and we don’t have separate checking accounts. We talk about where we want the money to go – we compromise on our wants and needs, and we work out a plan that’s comfortable for both of us. We always have cash on hand for little impulses, and we’re always prepared for Murphy, should he poke his smelly little head in and try to ruin our month.
Believe me, I’ve been where you are, and I know how it feels to pick up the phone and hear an unfamiliar and intimidating voice on the other end, demanding payments that were promised but never made. I’ve been in the middle of horrific fights with my beloved over our lack of cash when a birthday came around, or the car broke down, or it was time to pay the electric bill and we didn’t have the money. I’ve avoided landlords, stopped answering my phone, and “forgot” to check the mailbox. I’ve consolidated credit cards until I couldn’t manage the monthly payments any longer. I’ve bought items I couldn’t afford and refused to return them because I didn’t want anyone to know I was broke. I have borrowed money from friends and family until they got tired of not being repaid as agreed. If I could qualify for the card, I could put it to good use. I have lived in a world of paycheck-to-paycheck, and yet I found a way to spend like I owned an everlasting money tree.
Are you in a position where you could fork over the cash to fix the muffler on your car should it fall off? Are you able to take your kids shopping for their Back to School needs without worrying about how you’re going to pay the electric bill this month? Can you stand in the checkout line at the grocery store without trying to figure out which credit card you’re going to charge your cart full of grub on? Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about all these things? Wouldn’t you love to come home to a mailbox full of air instead of a stack of credit card statements and past due notices? I encourage you to take a look at your financial situation. Are you where you want to be – where you thought you’d be at this point in your life? If you are, good for you! However, I’d be willing to bet most of us are not quite there yet.
(Shameless advertisement coming!) Because Sam and I worked so hard to get ourselves out of debt, (it took us almost seven years, by the way) we sure as heck don’t want to get ourselves back into it. Debt is an evil master. Sam and I have committed our energies to helping people find ways to get out of the debt pit they’ve dug themselves into. Sam has written a book called IOU NO MORE! which details the plan we designed and implemented so we could get free of our debt bondage. You can pick up your copy at www.iounomore.com or Amazon.com. It’s a simple and manageable plan that can help you break the cycle of debt today. Check out the website (www.iounomore.com) for useful tips on how to spend more wisely, and you can even request a free copy of our basic spending plan to help you get started on the right track.
Debt freedom is closer than you think!