Call me a nerd, but I like living on a budget. Alex and I are in the middle of our second month using an envelope budgeting system and it's going really well. I bought Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover on cd for Alex for Christmas along with one of Dave's seminars on cash flow. We finished listening to them in January and jumped into our new routine in February. Since then, I don't stress about money as much and Alex and I are on the same page about where our income is going. If you aren't familiar with Dave Ramsey, he is a best-selling author, a radio talk show host and creator of Financial Peace University, which teaches people "baby steps" to get out of debt, save for emergencies and plan for their financial futures. I'm happy to say that by the end of this month, we'll be debt free (except for our house)!!! Throughout this process, I've learned a lot about my spending habits. There are some great benefits to living on a budget.
1. You tend to buy less stuff on impulse and instead, think before buying that "stuff- you-just-can't-live-without-because-it's-only-$1! A dollar store opened up a little over a year ago just a mile or so from my house. They have an entire aisle devoted to scrapbooking and card making supplies (and much of it is name brand), which is right up my ally. I bought countless brads, buttons, paper packs, stickers, and more with the intention of making my nieces homemade cards every month to let them know that their Aunt Amanda loved them. And then I never used any of it. The stuff just sat around my office taking up space. So, $30 and a shipping box later, my nieces received a lovely care package in the mail full of those kiddy embellishments so that they could make their own cards (which they had been starting to do with my sister and her Cricut).
2. Because you don't buy as much on impulse, your house isn't cluttered with STUFF! This is pretty self-explanatory. It's amazing how I used to go into a store and buy something without much thought about it. Now that I have a set amount of spending money every month - in cash, so as not to be tempted by the debit card - I really think about what I buy and I usually end up walking away without feeling deprived.
3. You have less stress! Knowing when money is coming in and when it is going out and having it all accounted for on paper gives me peace that bills will be paid on time, there will be money put in savings and not taken out because we overspent and our goals will be met because we're actually doing something to reach them.
4. Budgeting gives you goals to work towards. We're working toward saving up 6 months of living expenses in case of an emergency, saving for retirement, and eventually some home improvement projects. We also know the timeline of how long it should take us to reach these goals.
5. Budgeting opens up communication between you and your spouse about goals, dreams, etc. Statistics show that fights about finances are a major source of strife in marriage, even leading to divorce. Thankfully, so far, Alex and I haven't really had any issues in this area. We sat down and talked about how much to budget for everything from spending money to vet visits. After the budget was set, we kept talking about it to work out a few kinks and discuss new dreams and goals that we wanted to be prepared for.
6. There is freedom in having boundaries. Simply, I don't feel controlled by money. I know how much I have to spend every week on groceries, eating out, hobbies and clothes. If there is no money in the "Amanda's spending money" envelope, then I don't buy the pretty fabric to sew a new purse until the next month. I've learned a lot of self control over the past 6 weeks!
Sometimes I look back over the last two and a half years that we've been married and regret that we didn't make these changes sooner. We could have had our emergency fund ready by now. We could have replaced the 1984 faux-butcher block laminate kitchen countertops already. I can't change the past, but I can change our future and it's looking bright!