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The other morning my 3 year old told me he liked playing animal doctor at school the day before and hoped he could play it again.
I said “did you know Boo sees an animal doctor, too? They are called Vets…” He scrunched up his face in a way that let me know he basically thought this was the most made up word he’d ever heard. He asked me to clarify a few times and I elaborated with “Veterinarian.” He thought about that one for a second, then laughed out load and said “mom, you crack me up!”
Meet these subjects:
I tell you this in case:
1. You don’t care about budgets but still wanted a little something to read…
2. Like my little guy who doesn’t understand the Vet… you feel like budgeting is also pretty hard to understand. Especially if you haven’t learned about it before.
I have always considered myself to be decent with money in a sense that I’m able to pay bills and save a little for a rainy day. Once home buying and raising kids entered the equation, I took a good look at budgeting options and was quickly drawn to Dave Ramsey’s books on baby steps and debt snowballing.
First things first—I’m not trying to tell anyone how to spend their money. You do you! And I’m also no expert. I like to think of our family’s plan as Dave Ramsey LITE. But I do get questions from friends because I openly talk about following Dave Ramsey guidelines. So, if you’ve ever considered taking a second look at your finances or adopting a game plan, here is an overview:
First, the baby steps:
- Save $1000
- Pay off all debt (other than your mortgage)
- Save 3-6 months living expenses
- Invest 15% towards retirement
- Fund kids college
- Pay off home
Many of you may be doing all of these things at once, and that’s fine too! But this plan is very much about the emotional wins along the way. Save $1000—nice! Pay off your car—woo! Finish step 3—check! Taking it step by step and throwing everything you have towards one step at a time can keep people more invested and motivated on their way towards becoming financially set.
Where people spend a lot of focus is step #2 and there is a process called debt snowballing that Dave Ramsey recommends. Start with your loan or credit card that has the lowest balance, and throw every extra cent you have towards that one debt each month (keep paying the minimums on all the others).
Once it has been paid off, take what you had been paying towards it and roll it over to the next lowest debt. Eventually your cash snowball grows larger and larger and the debts are paid off with increasing speed–like a snowball rolling down a hill.
The main question for me was– well how much extra do we even HAVE to throw at our lowest debt?
You don’t really know unless you budget.
The B word!
Some people prefer not to budget because they feel restricted by it or it seems impossible to get it right down to the penny. I like to think of it as more of a direction for my money. Dave Ramsey says to tell your money what to do–and that stuck with me.
What do you spend each month that you have to? Daycare, utilities, bills?That should be easy. What do you spend after that? Entertainment, shopping, groceries? Put pen to paper and find out based on your last month or so. Then, set some guidelines.
When all is said and done, there may be $500 a month after all your costs that isn’t designated to anything, but that seems to disappear before the next paycheck. Who all has wondered WHERE does my money go!?
My best bit of budget advice is, again: tell your money where to go! Assign that leftover $500/month to a debt, then it won’t just disappear; it will pay off your car in a year instead of six. It will also keep you from spending it. If that $500 goes bye-bye out of your checking account and onto a debt payment, you CAN’T spend it. You may be forced to live a little lean….but at least it won’t have disappeared at WalGreens or Target on things you didn’t need!
Soooo, that’s what we try to do. It’s not always fun to put extra money towards a car payment when you don’t have to. It can feel way more fun to spend it! Often times we DO just spend it. Dave Ramsey LITE is what I said ☺ But it can be fun to save money and/or pay down debt.
As a type A person, I always feel better following a plan! I may get off track then get back on track repeatedly, but I still recommend the Dave Ramsey approach to anyone who has considered it. And if you’ve ever found the idea of creating a budget to be as far fetched as the word Veterinarian (or not, silly kid!), I hope this post gave you a little inspiration that it can be as simple as telling your money where to go!