My husband and I sat in his car, both silently absorbing the phone call from the doctor’s office. “Your pregnancy test came back positive!” crowed the nurse, happy to be the bearer of such news. “Congratulations!”
We sat there, completely stunned. Normally couples would rejoice at this news, but not us. This wasn’t the plan. I was working full-time, intent on building a career in the non-profit world. My husband was a full-time student, working part time. We were planning to buy my grandparents’ lovely home in the country, build a collection of classic cars, and travel. Raising a family was not a part of our plan.
But there we were, pregnant, completely unprepared emotionally and financially for such an event. Being suddenly responsible for another human being, albeit one the size of a pea, we knew change needed to happen…fast. Within the next seven months, we relinquished our dreams of a home in the country, my husband quit school for a full-time job, we purchased a run-down fixer upper, welcomed a new baby girl, and I began working part-time from home. Phew.
Not only did our lives get turned upside down in those seven months, but our finances went topsy-turvy in the process, too. We needed help. We needed a budget.
Perhaps you can relate to our story – life has thrown you a curveball, or you’re feeling overwhelmed by financial stresses, or you’re just ready to set up a solid financial plan for your life situation. Where in the world do you start?
- HOW do you develop a budget? We were blessed to attend a church that offered Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was truly a game-changer for us. He gave us the tools to develop sound strategies to not only conquer the stress of daily expenses, but also help us develop a plan for the future financial security. Now, in complete disclosure, we have deviated from his plan a bit here and there to better fit our life situation, but overall, it has worked really well for us. Learn more about Financial Peace University here.
- How do you keep track of your budget and your expenses? There are some really great apps out there for tracking your expenses, developing a budget, and recording your expenses. Because we took the class before apps were part of our daily lives, I set up our budget on a simple spreadsheet, and that still works best for me. However, one app that I can’t live without is Goodbudget, which is a virtual envelope system. (What the heck is an envelope system? Find out here.) Other apps that rate well and have a wide scope of budgeting capabilities include:
- Doesn’t using a budget cramp your style? Not really! In fact, it has done exactly the opposite. It is freeing to know exactly how much money you have available to spend in any certain category and, even more, that you are living within your means.
Fast forward a dozen years, and life looks a lot different – we are in the thick of raising two vivacious tween girls, our house is not an eyesore anymore, and we are teaching our girls how to budget for themselves. Do we live on a budget perfectly after twelve years? Absolutely not. Life happens, and I am human and prone to wander toward clearance racks full of cute clothes. Does having a budget give me peace of mind? Absolutely.
Next time…we will tackle meal planning and grocery shopping! Wheee! This is one of my most favorite topics – truly! I can’t wait!