Do you find yourself constantly worrying about money?
Do you feel stressed and anxious just trying to figure out how to pay the bills, only to end up in a full-blown panic when anything extra comes up?
In this guest post, Tana Williams of Debt Free Forties outlines how she got her budget under control, so her family could stop worrying about money, even when faced with a crisis.
If you’re struggling with starting and sticking to a budget we can totally understand. You can grab the FREE 90-day budget bootcamp that Tana used to get started here…
Here’s what Tana had to say…
My family has been able to pay off over $27,000 in debt and raise our net worth by $103,863 in just over two years.
It wasn’t magic we learned at Hogwarts, an inheritance, or selling a kidney that got us to this point. We were able to do it with the help of Rosemarie’s 90-day Budget Bootcamp.
The 90-day Budget Bootcamp came at a time when we were struggling with direction and motivation – we knew we wanted a better life financially, but didn’t know how to get there.
When you’re constantly worrying about money – where to find it, how to pay your bills – you’re being reactive. And when you don’t have a plan for your money, it gets spent quickly and without purpose.
It’s an exhausting way to live.
The 90-day Budget Bootcamp is the perfect tool to help organize finances and give your money a purpose that gets you to your goals. All without being overwhelming or difficult.
With Rosemarie’s Bootcamp, we stopped obsessing about money, feeling like we never had enough, and always worrying about how to get more. Now, we know what’s important to us and use budgeting, knowing our net worth, and money as tools to push us toward completing our financial goals.
Our Life Before We Began Using the 90-day Budget Bootcamp
Constantly worrying about money is exhausting. Physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Not having a budget is like being stuck on a cheap unicorn floatie in the middle of the ocean. You cling to whatever means necessary to stay afloat, praying the flimsy plastic doesn’t collapse beneath you.
How’d you get here anyway? You just wanted a nice beach vacation – and now you’re miles from shore, starving and sunburnt and totally screwed.
Funny analogy, I know – but that was us two years ago, before we found Rosemarie’s 90-day Budget Bootcamp. We were starving, sunburnt, and floating without a paddle.
We had no clue what our net worth was, where our money was going, or what our plans for the future were. Even if we’d had a paddle, we wouldn’t have known what direction to go in.
We Didn't Have Systems In Place to Support Our Efforts to Save Money
We couldn’t even stay on top of dishes, much less finances.
Money was something I personally worked hard for but didn’t value. I would waste it as soon as I got it, assuming I could always make more. Call it a financial immortality mindset.
And it wasn’t healthy.
We were clueless about our spending, and would basically record what we spent after it was said and done, rather than setting a budget beforehand. With a new baby, a toddler, student loans, and no savings, we were a step or two away from disaster.
And as a result, we were constantly worrying about money.
No wonder we were constantly overwhelmed, worrying about money and exhausted by it all. When you’re reacting to spending, rather than proactively budgeting for it, it can feel like you’re running to catch up constantly.
The Steps We Took to Finally Change Our Financial Life For Good
We downloaded the FREE 90-day Budget Bootcamp and then purchased The 90-day Budget Workbook in December 2016 and began using it monthly.
Just like with doing new exercises, it was hard at first. Not the actual budgeting, but changing our mindsets.
I had some rather rigid black and white thinking about how budgeting should work. Which meant that I failed for a bit before I finally shook my brain out of that same rut and caught on.
After a couple of months of using the budgeting workbook, some key ideas clicked and the light bulb flipped on, glaringly bright:
- Budgeting should be flexible. Every month will not be the same. It’s just not possible to have a cookie-cutter budget because life happens. Making adjustments every month is key. Expenses fluctuate and change, and that’s ok.
- Being proactive is so much better than reactive. By acknowledging upcoming expenses, it’s easier to plan for them, rather than just throw them on a credit card. It’s the only way that we could get in front of our credit cards and get them paid off.
- Every month is a fresh start. So this month didn’t go perfect? Well, it’s not always going to. However, each month is a fresh start and a chance to make adjustments and try again.
And so we kept our heads down and kept working the budget every month with a debt-free date in mind, in about a year.
We Got Slammed With A Crisis
Then, my husband got laid off and a storm blew off part of our roof. Talk about a double whammy.
While it was scary and frustrating and unplanned, we were so very thankful that we had already started budgeting and cutting back on expenses before these events.
I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been otherwise.
Thanks to our budgeting efforts up to this point, we knew what we were spending money on. We knew what we could cut back on and what adjustments we could make to get by.
We ended up paying over $1,000 for health care insurance every month for our family, which was a massively unexpected cost, not to mention the deductible for the roof. However, at this point, I had finally grasped the fact that life happens, and having to make adjustments to your finances does not mean you’ve failed.
And while it’s impossible not to get sweaty hands and super anxious about a layoff, we managed it. And rather well, thanks to having a budget in place.
It took a little over 2 months for him to find new work, but thankfully he found something that makes him feel much more fulfilled and he actually enjoys going to every day. It truly worked out for the best!
How Our Life has Improved After Using the 90-day Budget Bootcamp
Today, we actually know our net worth – and it’s up over $103k in just over 2 years! We officially became debt-free in April 2018, even with our many setbacks and adjustments.
With no more student loans or credit card debt, we’re working on saving up our full six month emergency fund. Two years ago, the idea of six month emergency fund felt so overwhelming and impossible. Now, it’s finally becoming a reality.
When I print out the next month’s budget (a couple of weeks early because I’m a dork and get excited about the organization around it), I arrange the bills a bit differently. Everything is on auto-pay except for about 3 to 4 bills, and those I pay as soon as I get the invoice.
A lot of expenses go on a credit card (daycare, software, etc.) and at the end of every month, I pay it off in full.
I group the bills by transaction type (automated vs. manual). I also color code the payments with a highlighter by where they were coming out of (bank account vs. credit card).
Even now, over two years later, I still print out several of the budget workbook pages and write up our budget and net worth. Every. Single. Month.
We’d be lost without our budget. We’d never know what our goals were, how we’re going to achieve them, or what our progress is.
Now, we have so much less stress and worry. Budgeting is now boring, as opposed to a monthly scavenger hunt of where I’m going to find an extra $100 for this or that.
And I’m totally ok with boring – I like boring (at least when it comes to finances!).
Now It’s Your Turn to Use Budgeting to Reach Your Goals
Remember the unicorn floatie analogy from earlier? Could you relate to that just a little more than you want to admit? Do you feel like you’re floating mid-ocean without any idea which direction to head in?
If so, it’s time to find yourself a paddle and start towards land by incorporating a monthly budget. If you’re new to budgeting, or have struggled with it in the past, try it again. You can do this.
That doesn't mean you have to make a zillion dollars to get a handle on money or get ahead. You just have to have patience, perseverance, and a copy of a really, really good budget that you’re willing to try out.
If you mess up one month, it’s fine. It’s not a mistake – it’s a lesson. Learn from it. Adjust the next month. Nothing is set in stone, so be flexible. There’s so much freedom in letting go of your expectations and embracing budgeting.
Remember that even though it might take a bit to get used to (like doing squats), you’ll be glad you did it. Just think of where your family can be in 6 months or a year if you start now with the 90-day Budget Bootcamp.
Just grab that paddle and get started heading towards shore!
Tana Williams is a web designer/developer and mom by day, blogger and DIY enthusiast by night. She is obsessed with anything and (almost) everything personal finance and has been blogging at Debt Free Forties for over two years.
If you’re looking for ways to kick start your budget, Tana suggests trying a no spend challenge to help reset your spending and find extra money in your budget to accelerate reaching your goals.