by the Brother
There’s nothing like starting the year off with a trip to the auto repair shop to have my car fixed for seven hundred clams. (That’s $700 for those who haven’t heard the clam lingo before.) Thankfully I have a budget that works and helps me save money for such repairs.
What’s that you ask? Oh, a budget?
No silly reader, a budget isn’t a sewage filled pastry. All a budget is, is your financial reality on paper. I was once fearful of the ‘b’ word as well and have traumatic horror stories of being buried in debt at the mercy of the lender. I was earning good money, yet surviving paycheck to paycheck with nothing to show for my work. This was basically out of ignorance and lack of financial education. Knowing what is coming in and what is going out is scary at first (as well as all the many attempts that followed), but seeing is now a freeing feeling. It’s not always pretty and money angels haven’t started dumping cash all over my home, but it takes the fear and guessing away. I am able to enjoy life without the worry of whether I’m going to end up living in a cardboard box or not. And if I do, I have enough savings to pay rent on that box for a few months until I get more funds rolling in.
Using a budget effectively now for the past year has dramatically changed my relationship with money. I’ve been practicing for years. I would start and get discouraged because there was more cash outflow than inflow. I’ve read books and tried to follow other people’s examples, but I had a hard time with them telling me I HAVE to do this or that with a budget or else I would never be able to save and give to others like I’d like. There was a lot of truth to some of these ideas which I now practice, but some I couldn’t go along with.
One of the things that I would hear a lot from financial gurus is, “You must get rid of your gym membership immediately!” I couldn’t do it, even with a pile of debt. Not that I’m in the gym twenty-four seven, but I do use it on a consistent basis along with plenty of outside fitness that these gurus would suggest that I do. Resistance training is great for the body and helps bring stress levels down. And the sauna is a great place to meditate as long as the dude watching a sitcom on his phone without earbuds for everyone to hear isn’t there, you ass.
I know I know, love and compassion…
But the small price of what I pay for the gym membership is much less than the cost of a room at the ole nut ward from not having an outlet for stress. I decided to cancel my cable television instead to save on that expense every month. That’s the beauty of a personal budget. It is PERSONAL! There isn’t a one size fits all. Not everyone wants to live in a mansion and have servants who cook them delicious food and rub their feet after playing jump rope on a yacht all day. Ok, I’m probably speaking for myself here…
My point is, it took me a while to realize that I don’t have to do everything that Dave Ramsey, founder of Financial Peace University, says or be as cheap as Clark Howard. Clark has written books and has a radio show to discuss finance with folks on the air. He also retired in his thirties so he had my attention for a while. I’m grateful for both of them for helping me along the way, and for all the others out there trying to help people save more, spend less, and avoid getting ripped off (a Clark Howard saying). I find that I take nuggets from many different people and form a budget that works for me. One of my favorite, now deceased, mentors is Jim Rohn. He shared his story via audio books and also recommended other helpful books and strategies to help with personal finance that I still enjoy today.
It’s not the amount of money that you make that matters. What matters is what you do with it. – Jim Rohn
Darren Hardy emphasizes doing the little things everyday and seeing the rewards down the road. I recommend his book, “The Compound Effect.” The concept not only inspired me to stay the course with budget practice, but also in other areas of my life such as exercising on a regular basis without going to extremes. To be consistent with all of my positive life habits. Budgets and exercise are a couple of things that keep me healthy for the long haul. My personal budget took time and practice to get to where it flows relatively smooth for the single working dad world that I live in. And I continue to make changes and improvements as needed.
There was a lot of great advice from the books that I read and from friends that showed me by example that I could be free of financial fears, such as: Get on a fast track to pay off any debt, (check). Build an emergency fund, (check). Create fun funds, (check). Have a percentage that goes towards my future. And my favorite, have a category for money to give away.
Another tip I heard often is to cut up all credit cards. This is great advice if you are nose-hair deep in debt, or have a spending-money-on-crap-that-you-store-in-the-garage-to-collect-dust addiction. I found that after I paid off all of my debt I could use a credit card on purchases that were already slotted in my budget because I earn a percentage back as long as I pay the card off every month.
I didn’t like the $5000.00 limit on my credit card, though, because I didn’t have that kind of money to cover the balance and asked the person at my bank to drop the limit. They said, “Oh sure Mr. Julian, let’s see how much you qualify for.” I said, “No, I want to LOWER my limit.” That was a first for them and they awkwardly obliged after a small conference with the supervisor. I knew that I could cover a lower credit line and so reap the rewards of smarter spending. I did set a rule for myself that if I ever pay one cent of interest on that card, I must destroy it in a wood chipper and have the banker cancel it for keeps.
I no longer have a fear of financial insecurity and I didn’t have to stop purchasing things that I’m interested in. I had to change a few behaviors and sacrifice some going out lunches at work along with a few other things. I started using the library more instead of buying as many books, walking into stores instead of using Amazon, and my life hasn’t crumbled to pieces because I started using a budget.
This all started when I hit my financial bottom at the end of a quadruple-rollover car loan. Yes, dear reader, that’s four cars traded in at different automotive dealerships within a two-year span in which I rolled each loan into the next. Like taking a bite out of a sewage filled pastry, that makes me nauseous and want to vomit just thinking about all the thousands of dollars wasted. Instead of having the engine light diagnosed on the car that I was driving at the time, I was swept away into a car buying emotionally whacked out frenzy. I couldn’t seem to stop the madness and fell into a deep depression. This happened after having already crawled out of many years of debt, which made the struggle all the more painful.
I used to think that it’s so complicated to keep track of spending, but it only takes a couple minutes to log spending for the day, usually less than forty-three seconds. The end of the month takes the longest to figure out the budget for the upcoming month. But, we’re talking seventeen to thirty-four minutes or so for that session. And I do this with a piece of paper and a pencil, because that’s what I found works best for me.
Since I’ve been budgeting for a while and have money saved for vehicle maintenance, I can pay the auto shop without stress and go about my day, knowing my payment helps the shop stay in business.
When I showed up to pay for the car, they told me that they were able to get the job done in less time than they originally quoted me, which lowered my bill by a couple hundred dollars. Not a bad way to start the year after all!