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Why We Decided It Was Better Late Than Later To Make A Budget

Family

B.J. and I have been married for almost 12 years. We’ve had a family budget for 12 days.

It’s one of those things in our marriage that has truly gone through an evolution. When we were first married there wasn’t a lot to “budget”. Our life and our bills were relatively simple. We had credit cards but we paid them off in full every month and other than some student loans B.J. had from years ago we didn’t have any debt other than our house. Our cars were paid in full and our monthly mortgage payment was $741. Over time and with the addition of new businesses and starting a family, our finances got more complicated. We also made the mistake of overspending on our credit cards. Not for anything frivolous, but for business purchases that looking back we should have paid for in cash. B.J. went back to school to finish his Bachelor’s degree and then earned a Master’s of Education degree… so the student loan debt grew some too.  We became used to the cycle of paying our credit card bills and student loan payments but we decided our goal was to be debt free. We love Dave Ramsey’s philosophy and we’re working hard to get out of debt and make our money work for us while building a legacy for our family.

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Up until this month both of us has been self-employed our entire relationship (14 years). This is the first month that both of us are employed by someone other than ourselves. Which means it’s the very first month in our marriage that we’ll both be receiving regular paychecks. So for “date night” on August 1st we decided to focus on creating a budget.  We started by having a “budget date.” It fit the theme for the date and it made the experience more memorable. We went to Costco for dinner and had a slice of pizza and a polish sausage. Then we went to Starbucks and got iced drinks and like two mathletes on a first date opened up our computers and went line item by line item through our budget. Our entire date night cost $11.84. Now that’s dating your spouse on a budget!

I’d done some research before our date and had come across a great tool called EveryDollar.com. Using EveryDollar.com (which is from Dave Ramsey and the Lampo Group), you can make a monthly budget that shows where every single dollar you earn goes over the course of a month. In less than an hour we had a budget that we could use to guide our spending choices in the coming month. We’re both highly competitive, so in some ways the budget feels like a game. A game of saving and paying off debt. It’s also a great tool to identify places that you spend money without even realizing it. Eating out was one of those places for us up until about a year ago. We realized that we were spending way more on meals at restaurants or take-out meals than we needed to. So we came up with a plan to eat out once a week after church on Sundays as a family. It’s become a part of our weekend that we each look forward to. We let Lily choose where we eat, so it’s always a toss up between Someburros and Smash Burger.

EveryDollar.com is free to use. There is a premium version that costs $99 per year. The difference is that the premium version allows you to connect your online banking and credit card accounts and then drag & drop your expenses and incomes into the appropriate categories. It doesn’t do it automatically, you have to do it. At first I thought I would find this frustrating, but I think it’s actually part of the discipline of understanding where every. single. dollar. goes. It’s not a miserly activity, but rather a disciplined practice in good stewardship.

We did pay for the premium version because of the time saving benefit of having our expenses and revenues show up right inside of our account. And if you’re wondering, no, this isn’t a paid ad for EveryDollar.com… I just think it’s a great resource and that building a budget is really paramount to having financial peace within your marriage and your family. That’s why we decided it was better to build a budget late than later. We wish we’d done it a long time ago.

Screenshot 2015-08-12 17.55.54Something else that brings us tremendous financial peace is our commitment to tithing. A couple of years ago when we first started attending Central Christian Church in Gilbert, they had a guest speaker named Robert Morris. Robert is the Senior Pastor of Gateway Church in Texas and he’s written a book called The Blessed Life. Now I know many people are skeptical about tithing, but I can confidently say that this book changed our lives. We had always put a little cash in the collection plate at church, but we’d never sacrificially given before. We weren’t well versed in the Biblical definition of tithing. And I think like many people we looked at giving as an obligation, not a blessing. We’d never really thought about where our money went when we gave it to the church.  We’d never prayed and asked God to multiply our offering and do amazing things to grow His kingdom on earth with it. After hearing Pastor Morris speak and reading his book our hearts were completely changed.

We now joyfully tithe 10% of our income every month to our church. It’s the very first payment we make after we receive any type of income. Biblically this is referred to as the “first fruits.” In our culture, it’s commonplace to see giving as something that happens at the end of your obligations and even at the end of your luxuries. It’s normal to give from your “left overs.” We have been blessed beyond belief by doing exactly the opposite. We now give first to God and then pay our bills. And you know what? While there hasn’t been a lot of financial margin in our lives because of poor planning in the past, since we began tithing we’ve never had a month we couldn’t make all of our commitments. And it has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with God’s promise to us. If you’d like to know more about the blessings of tithing, I highly recommend reading The Blessed Life.

And if you’re a ninja at planning great dates and managing a budget with your spouse… share your ideas in the comments. I’d love to hear how you make it work!

 

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