My husband and I were given an audio book called The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey for a wedding present in 2006. We listened to it in the car while on a road trip. I think for both of us, it went in one ear and out the other. We were not really ready (read: mature enough) to implement the ideas in that book.
We started our adult/married life with roughly $30,000 in student loans. Between 2006 and 2015 we bought a house, had a baby, bought 2 brand new vehicles, had another baby and racked up a ridiculous amount of credit card debt. To say the least, we were not in good financial health. In the beginning, we were not making much money. I remember thinking that if Zach could increase his income, we would be okay. Four years in, he did increase his income by quite a bit. It didn’t change our situation. The situation didn’t change because we didn’t change. We had attempted a budget once or twice, but didn’t stick to it. We were not talking about money. At. All. Sometimes, I would ask if we could do something or buy something and Zach would say “it’s just not in the budget,” and I would scream in my head “BUT THERE IS NO BUDGET!!”
In January of 2015, Zach read The Total Money Makeover and started listening to the Dave Ramsey show (a radio show that is also recorded for a podcast). He came to me one day and told me we were going to get out of debt the way Dave said to do it. He said we were going to make a budget and do that debt snow ball, and it was going to be great. I kind of rolled my eyes and said “okay,” because I just didn’t believe him.
When he got his bonus that year, he took that money and paid off our student loans. Now, that got my attention! I decided I would get involved and do a budget meeting- at least once. It did not go well. Mostly because Zach sat at our computer desk in his comfy, cushy chair while I stood behind him trying to see the screen. He told me what the budget would be for the month, and I again rolled my eyes and said “okay.” The next month I insisted he bring the laptop to the couch or kitchen table so that I could actually sit down during this meeting. It only went a little bit better than the first. I can tell you, though that we have gotten the hang of it now. Budgeting is easy in theory, but it takes practice to actually get it right. Budget meetings are straight forward, but it requires active participation from both partners to be successful.
If you have not read this book, please go to your local library and check it out! It is a great tool. If you have never written out a budget before, you’re really missing out. I know that people don’t like the word budget. It makes some people have a terrible reaction. If this is you, then I encourage you to make a “spending plan.” As Dave says, you’ve got to give every dollar a name. If you spend all your money on paper before the month starts, then *hopefully* your money will go where you told it to go, and at the end of the month you won’t be wondering where all the money went!
Now we are halfway through 2016 and we are chipping away at the last item from our debt snowball, which is the vehicle I drive. It’s been a great journey. I wouldn’t recommend going into debt just to work your way out, but working our way out has actually been good for our marriage. We have learned to communicate in a way we didn’t before. We are now very comfortable talking about money and we have some shared goals. We didn’t really have any shared goals before we started all this.
It can be difficult to stay motivated. One of the things we have done is to take one of our shared goals (a house we want to build someday) and put a picture of it on the fridge. We both see this picture every single day, and that helps us to stay on track. If you are in debt and don’t know where to start, I hope you will be encouraged to get going. If you’re not in debt, but don’t do a budget and can’t seem to get ahead, I hope you will see why it is important to budget. It’s time. Just start!
For more information about budgeting, call your county extension office!
Our shared goal: