When Zach and I learned we were expecting in April, we realized that we needed to start taking better care of our finances and getting some student loan debt paid down before his arrival. Even though I’d argue that we were never really “reckless” with how we spent our money, there were definitely places we could reign in (eating out, shopping, unnecessary purchases from Amazon….can any of you relate?!) so that we could save more money and pay down more debt. So, since we made that decision, we’ve been living on Zach’s salary as if we haven’t had mine. I believe that God calls us to be responsible stewards of our money as all of it is His anyways. Since we’ve been working on our budgeting discipline and perfecting our tactics, I figured I’d share with you some of the things we’ve done that have made our budgeting a little bit easier. With a little discipline and hard work, regardless of how much money you make, I think anyone can be responsible financial stewards and pay down debt and STILL live a life that is fully rewarding with the money you make!
- Find a budgeting app that works for you! With the ease of smart phone apps, there are a million and one budgeting apps that you could use to help you reach your budgeting goals. Some of the apps that I’ve heard good things about are: Mint, Everydollar, PocketGuard and You Need A Budget (YNAB). Budgeting used to confuse me so much. Before we found an app that worked for us, I used to get stressed out because I was never sure how to organize our finances in a way that made sense and was functional for us. I suggest that if you want to start a budget, look into one of those apps mentioned above and try it out! We currently use the Everydollar app and love it so far. It can even be linked up with your bank account so that you know exactly how much you are spending in each category! Bottom Line: Find an app that works for you and stick with it!
- Tithe, Tithe, Tithe. As Christians, we are called to give our first fruits (10% of our earnings) to God because after all, He provides for us and everything we own/earn is His anyways. It says in Proverbs 3:9-10 “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Zach and I have seen God provide for us over and over again because we have been faithful in consistently giving our first fruits of our earnings to Him. At times the finances didn’t mathematically add up and we were in a bind, but somehow, we’ve always survived and God has always provided for us. Even if it doesn’t mathematically seem feasible in your budget to consistently tithe, remember that God is in control and He will take care of you, regardless if the money adds up in your head or not! Start making tithing a part of your monthly budget and you won’t regret it!
- Use cash for all your monthly purchases. If you use cash for all purchases, then once you run out of it, you can’t overspend what you don’t have! We first got this idea from Dave Ramsey. He’s always taught that we should use cash for everything so that once the money in each category runs out, you’re done for the month and don’t spend outside of your means. We’ve made a few little adjustments, however. We tend to pay our mortgage, our utilities, our student loan payments all online as they are all synced up to our checking account and it’s just easier for us to get them paid that way then to physically pay with cash. However, everything else we use cash for so that once we’re out, we’re out! It’s almost fool proof. Keep in mind, you need to tailor it to suit your situation the best but I definitely recommend using cash for almost every purchase you make. Get rid of those debit cards and only keep a credit card for emergencies! Using cash also really puts into perspective how much money you are spending on things. $20 always seems like way more to me when I pay for it in cash versus using my credit card.
- Live within your means. This is by far the hardest part of budgeting! When you first begin managing your finances and you have to readjust your spending habits, you learn how difficult it is to live within your means. However, once you start to form a habit of it, it gets easier. When you begin forming your budget, remember that in order to live within your means, it may require you getting rid of a few things (Cable, Netflix, gym membership, Ipsy, etc.) but trust me, it will get easier and you’ll find other, cheaper ways to enjoy things! The sooner you stop overspending, the sooner you’ll be able to save money and pay off debt!
- Appreciate the FREE things in life and take advantage of them. There are so many things in life that are free but we get so focused on spending, spending, spending that we forget to look and take advantage of those free things! Since I’ve started budgeting, I’ve started taking advantage of free activities. Try taking a trip to the library to rent books instead of purchasing them, look on your local events calendar to see what kind of free festivals or celebrations are going on (Christmas time is the perfect time to look for these festive events), take a walk at a park with a friend, go on a picnic, sometimes there are free movie showings at the local movie theater, check and see, or if you’re like me, have friends over and make them dinner! Looking for the free activities brings out more creativity and is almost more fun at times then the expensive things!
So, there you have it, the 5 key things Zach and I have done to become responsible stewards of our finances! These things have definitely transformed the way we manage our lifestyle but they are oh so worth it too! By following these steps, you’ll be on your way to paying off debt, building up your savings, hopefully being prepared when an emergency happens (i.e. new car, new HVAC system in your house, hospital bills, etc.) and also discovering freedom when you learn that you aren’t controlled by money or your bills!
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