Monday, November 10, 2008

Autumn asks: Are you actually working with a written budget?

Budget, budget, budget. Kinda sounds like the name for pimple on your rump. "Oh no, not another budget! Need to buy some more breathable cotton undies."

For the first 15+ years of our marriage, we were golden. If we had $700 in debt I would need a paper bag to help me breath. People were begging us to take their credit cards or loans or whatever. We had to fight off the bank when we went to get a loan to buy our first house (and second even) -- they wanted to give us a stupid amount of money...which we knew was more than we could pay on a monthly basis. (It was no surprise to us when the mortage market crashed.)

I grew up the daughter of a career military father. And my mother did the same. We can stretch a dollar. We can cut a corner. You have to be able to in order to survive on a military income. (I do believe military is paid better now than it ever has been in the past...but that still isn't saying much). And the best thing about this is that there are systems in place to keep you in check. The creditors can go to the government and get your pay. You can be put in mandatory budget counceling, etc. You have to answer to THE COMMANDER if you mess up...not a good thing.

Anyways. When we adopted we began using the credit cards. It would be for things like the plane tickets (which I would then turn around and pay off) and such. We did this for many things. And then, the waiting between submitting paperwork and actually getting your child went from 10-12 months to less than 6 and we didn't have the money we needed to finish in cash. Ouch.

And that was the beginning of the end. You get over the despair of swiping that plastic and you are had. Add a move to an area with no military housing and a 2 month stay in a hotel (of which only 10 days is reimbursed) and you've got a problem. Or at least we do.

So one day we wake up to the fact that we have over 10K in dept (not house and car related). WHAT??? I also haven't worked in 4 years so this makes it worse.

All that to say that we decided to go to the Financial Peace class at church. I thought I knew all about budgets -- but I was soooo wrong. Take this class! It is fantastic!

Now, its going to take a little time to get the wrinkles ironed out, but by putting down that budget on paper for this month I was really encouraged. We can do this. And there is something about writing it all down that makes it easier. Yes, I said easier.

So we are working on a zero balance budget. This means every dollar is put down on that paper and told where to go. (And there is a "blow" category also so its not like you have no mad money.)

But, we do have some growing pains.

Songbird needed fall/winter shirts and the clothing allowance isn't built up yet so we blew that and ended up hitting the plastic for the extra. But, it is less than what we will put toward the clothing allowance next paycheck so I will put that money straight onto the card. Not too bad.

And I ran out of entertainment money so I wasn't able to attend a trip to the corn maze with friends that I was really looking forward to. But I sucked it up and was good. And for coffee night with some friends this week I will have to rob the grocery money...but DH is out of town so we aren't spending what we usually would so I can afford the $5 for a Chai.

And I now know I need to increase my blow money to closer to the amount DH gets. And I found 3 categories I need to fund raisers being a big one, and office supplies (think printer ink) being another.

But I feel better than I have in months and months. And we will pay off our first bill the 1st of next month..a whole month earlier than I have planned because I can SEE where everything is going to go and work it that way without shorting ourselves in another area.

And right now, I have very little faith that things will get better in our country so I NEED to get this paid off and handled. And hey, it might happen quick if the government is really going to go after our IRA's or 401k's -- we'll cash those puppies out and pay the debt if the government makes a move to touch them. NOT. I didn't work so hard to get that money there to entrust it to the government.

The funniest thing about this has been figuring out what you can get rid of and what you will not. The newspaper is gone. Another monthly household bill is gone in March when our contract runs out. Songbird can mow the lawn if DH is not home (I have serious grass allergies that prevent me from doing it).

The things that I will not get rid of:

1. The internet. And I won't even get cheap internet. DH is taking some college classes on line so it is not optional. He wants to have his degree finished before he retires from the military so it is very important. Plus, I couldn't breath without it. Hello, my name is Autumn, and I an internet addict.

2. Cell phone. I want to be able to reach out and touch my kids anytime, anywhere. Now, that being said, Songbird has a pay-as-you-go phone that we top up with $20 every 3 months. That is cheaper than the $10 extra a month we would pay if she was on my plan. Plus, it keeps her OFF the cell phone. At .25 a minute, there is no talking to the buds. There is no texting. It's a "call mom/dad" phone only. Rather embarrassing for her to explain to all of her friends, but I'm building character here!!!

3. My Netflix. This is because we decided to get rid of cable. Really. We did. But I couldn't do I turned it over to my husband. And I see that he still hasn't done it(for 2 months). So, in the end this might be one of the things that he just can't give up and I might let the Netflix go instead.

What about you? Are you working on an actually budget? And if you are, are you just doing what you are told or are you actually involved in the budget planning? And what are the top 3 things you wouldn't give up?

I'd love to hear any tips or pitfalls you want to share.


  1. Great post! Made me chuckle. We developed such a habit of being on a budget that it's become second-nature to us. But- we are needing to reevaluate. Getting out of debt is so hard. At first, the hardest part was trusting God instead of the plastic. But He provides everything we NEED, and just in time sometimes.

    Top three things...
    Internet - FOR SURE
    Cell phone - but we don't have a land line, so that's really not an option
    Eating out once a week (just fast food mind you!)

  2. We do have a written budget, because I just think it helps us stay on track if we can see it on paper.

    It takes great discipline to get out of debt, but I think you're doing great!

  3. We have tried soooo many times to stay on a budget. My husband is the one who can't(won't) do it. He was raised getting everything, EVERYTHING, he wanted, a very spoiled child. He still is but just this month he has seen the light(especially about the need to pay off the credit cards and STOP USING THEM-this is huge!). I'm doing the happy dance all the live-long day now!!

    Of course, he's doing a budget so we can afford a new automobile and that's not so good(but we need one, fixing our 1990 Suburban that has 270,000 miles on it will be around $4K, we'd rather get something more dependable).

    He also just found out that his asthma medication will cost him $110 more per month than he'd been paying when he worked for a pharmacist so we now have to adjust for that and some other medical debt needs paid off too.

    Anyway, the 3 things we can't give up are cell phones, our plan is about $70/month but it has saved more than that in long distance charges on our land line(which we also have to have for internet), the dsl internet, and the tv. I'd love to give up the last one but since we homeschool it is valuable for educational shows.

    What I would give up, and I think I speak for the rest of my family with this, is fast food and/or restaurant food! Last time we went out to eat it was horrible! And cost us over $50 for two people!!! I'd MUCH rather spend half that to rent a movie and make a nice dinner at home. Other things I'd give up would be our Sunday morning excursions to the local Bookstore/coffee bar. We take our two daughters while our son goes to church. It doesn't cost all that much to do this, maybe $8 a week, but the time wasted is what concerns me. I'd rather us head to a walking trail for exercise or go sit beside our pool(even in the fall and winter) with some good jazz music and some old quilting mags. My husband could access the internet here(he can't at the bookstore) and it would just be so much more relaxing, to me.
    I don't know what else we'd cut out, seems like all the rest of it is something we need.

    Thanks for this inspiring post!!