Creating and sticking to a budget: Our Story

by Melody on January 18, 2012

Recently I asked on the Facebook wall if anyone was interested in a budgeting series, and if so, what were your biggest challenges and what kind of information were you looking for.  I was truly amazed by your response and it seems like so many of you are either looking for a place to start or just need some help figuring things out.  I am by no means an expert, I only have our amazing personal experience, what has worked and definitely hasn’t worked along the way.

Even though I’m not an expert, I figure we can all benefit from exploring the world of budgeting a little more in-depth.  I can tell you, with 100% certainty, that budgeting has saved our lives, saved our marriage and made my husband and I far better people along the way.

I’m still trying to hash out how I would like this series to go, it’s kind of taken on a life of its own in my head.  After giving it a lot of thought, I figured there is no better way to launch this series than to share our story with you.

After several years of butting heads about our money philosophies, attempting to just ignore our bills and having conversations like this:

Me: “I want to have kids”
My husband: “I want to be financially secure”
Me: “What does that mean?”
My husband: “I don’t know, but I want whatever it is”

A friend of mine let me borrow her copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover (Amazon).  I devoured it and then made my husband read it.  It shocked me how basic the ideas were.  What shocked me even more was that we hadn’t been able to put together these ideas ourselves.  Dave Ramsey took the emotions out of the budget, which was something my husband and I couldn’t do.

We got to work.

I always felt like we had a “reasonable” amount of debt, although I’m now pretty sure that such a thing does not exist.  We wrote down each and every debt we had and added it all up.  Have you done this?  It was a little shocking.  A little here, a little there doesn’t seem so bad until you lay it all out in front of you.  To actually say out loud that we had over $35,000 in debt broke my heart a little.

Now we really got to work.

We wrote a budget. We rewrote our budget.  We argued a little about our budget.  We scrapped our budget and wrote it again.  We wrote down each individual debt in the order we wanted to pay it off and plastered it on the fridge.  We somehow muscled up an extra $1000 to put into savings for our “Emergency Fund”.  I hated the idea of not putting that $1000 towards our debt, but grudgingly admitted that I liked the security.

We VERY slowly started paying off our debts, one by one.  We took 10 steps forward, then 30 steps back.  We fell off the wagon a few times.  We reread the book to get motivated again.  We got pregnant.  We had Little Dude #1 and went down to one income.  We rewrote our budget.  We got pregnant.  We had Little Dude #2.  We rewrote our budget.  Our plans got derailed a little, we had to borrow money from my parents.  We paid off my parents and were amazingly staring at the idea of being debt-free.

In just under 5 years, we have paid off over $45,000 in debt.  The majority of that time was with only one income.  My husband doesn’t play for the Yankees or anything and I’m not a high profile fashion model.  We are average people on an average income. We are also people who only very occasionally argue about money.  We make it work for us instead of the other way around.  We literally have financial peace.

I’d like to address each aspect of our journey in a separate post, down to the basics of getting started.  Again, we are not experts in this field.  We just have a lot of blood, sweat, tears and TIME into this business of budgeting.  Where are you at in your budgeting journey?  What kind of information or help are you looking for?

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda Nino January 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Melody – I am so excited to read what you have to share. We are just beginning our budget process. I am a spender and my husband is a saver… but somehow my way seems to win out which has created debt and stress and no savings to speak of. We just ordered Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover when we found it on sale online!! I keep checking the mail, hoping it will show up soon! I would love to know how you decided what debts to pay first – did you base it on outstanding balance, interest rate, type of debt?? Thanks again for all you do!

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Melody January 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm

We actually followed just like the book says and started with our smallest debt, even though it did not have the highest interest rate. I know some people don’t agree with this, but for us, we really needed that “quick win”. I’m not sure we would have been disciplined enough to stick with it if we didn’t see immediate results. If you can do it, I’d definitely go with the higher interest rates first, but it does feel awfully good to get a small debt paid quickly to keep you motivated!

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Annette January 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm

I am so glad that you are teaching by Dave Ramsey. We just got done taking his Financial peace 13 week course and I will never take advice from anyone else. He know his stuff and if you follow what he teaches you won’t go wrong. I love that after you buy the Financial Peace kit you can re-take the class for free at anytime for a life time.

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Lora January 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm

This is SO great! Loved your story Melody. We have one as well. It’s so fun to hear other people’s journeys on their quest for financial stability. We have taken the Financial Peace University class three times. We LOVE it and it helps us stay focused. I think the second time was the most powerful for me. We started at ZERO – literally. We walked into the first class desperate and in serious trouble financially. It has now been three years and we will be debt free by the end of this year, if all goes as planned. In a couple months, if things go better than planned. Then we will build our house and will have a 15 year loan and the biggest house we have ever owned with the smallest payment. (It will only be 2000 sq. ft. but STILL!). We are so happy and excited to feel more secure financially. I have always been the spender, and most of the problem (not ALL of it!). But because of FPU and your and other money saving blogs, we’ve been able to get through this. Two and a half years in a 2 bedroom apartment, and driving my mom’s old Buick that she gave us all of a sudden seems like a DREAM instead of torture. But we couldn’t have gotten this far without a budget. That is the absolute KEY. We’re not perfect at it, but we have hashed and re-hashed it out every month and we do pretty well. Not perfectly, but pretty well. I tell myself “NO” all the time now when it comes to purchasing. I rarely did before. I’m so excited for this series! The thing that works best for us and budgeting is to have monthly meetings where we go over every single line item and make adjustments if necessary. Also paying for most things with cash and using the envelope system.

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Rachell newman January 19, 2012 at 5:53 am

Thank you for introducing us to dave ramsey like few 3 years ago! We love being debt free Mel! We are now in the process of paying the house off before we turn 40, yay! Again thank you,

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Sara January 19, 2012 at 6:48 am

My husband and I have talked about creating a budget for a long time now and finally at the start of the new year, we did it. When we looked at our income and what we had at the end of the month, we were appalled. We needed to make a change badly. Fast foward three weeks, and we’re finding out that this is going to be difficult already, which is somewhat discouraging. I find it inspiring to read other people’s stories (so keep them coming!) and am really looking forward to being debt free in a couple years…..

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Miss Jay January 19, 2012 at 7:44 am

Writing a budget and sticking to it has been one of the best things for our marriage. Done properly your budget will actually give you more freedom, not less. Done well, you don’t have to feel guilty about those cute new shoes you bought – because it was written into the budget. I think one of the main reasons people don’t want to start budgeting is that it can be really scary to take such a close look at your finances.

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Nikki January 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm

My husband checked out one of Dave Ramsey’s books from the library after hearing someone else talk about it and boy has it changed us. We have always been good with money; having no debt besides our mortgage and credit card balances that were paid off every month. However, over the last several months, it seems that we were having to borrow from savings more frequently and we were not making it through the end of the month (bill wise) and having to put things on the credit card, which made us short the next month. We made a budget and after only a couple of months, it is amazing to me that we have a huge chunk of change after payday, and the bills are paid, and the groceries are bought, and I even found some great deals on clothes and Christmas gifts (for next year) and have bought these items staying in budget. This is helping us focus on our saving goals and get them done. We are hopefully going to be done funding our (6 months of expenses in case stuff happens) savings by the end of this year.

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Melissa R January 19, 2012 at 6:06 pm

I love you guys so much. Thank you for sharing your story! Actually KNOWING someone that has been able to accomplish such an amazing thing is so inspiring to me.

My husband and I have started to create a budget & track our expenses. It’s really shocking to see just how much each little bill & purchase adds up!

I admire you so much! Thank you for inspiring me & my family!

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