Finances. Sigh. I’m assuming that if you are reading this, then you are struggling with finances in one form or another. Or maybe you are a young couple who wants to start out on the right foot with your bank account. Whatever the reason, finances are often one of our largest struggles as homemakers.
Welcome to the next part of our online book study of Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. It’s not too late to jump in and join the fun! You can read the introduction and see the full schedule of topics for the next 10 weeks. Or jump in with today’s discussion!
As I shared in the last part of this book study, I struggle with self-discipline and that extends into finances, budgeting, paying bills, etc. My husband and I were young and in college still when we got married and both paid our way through college (and we have the student loans to prove it). This year we have set some pretty high financial goals for our future so finances and budgeting have been a popular topic in our house.
But I know it can feel overwhelming and daunting when you don’t know where to start or how to turn your finances around.
You First Have to Know Where You’re Going
“So many people dream of getting out of debt, paying cash for another vehicle, paying off their houses early, or giving more generously to others. Very few people, however, get beyond the dreaming stage. Instead, they drive around and around without a map, wishing they could go somewhere without ever determining where they want to go.” – Crystal Paine, page 109
Wow, that really puts it into perspective. Maybe you want to get out of debt: Okay, so what does that mean? When do you want to be debt free? In 3 months, in a year, in 5 years? How much do you need to be paying off per month to meet those goals?
I know there have been times during our marriage and our financial journey that we just felt stuck - trapped - by our finances but honestly we were not doing a whole lot to change our habits. It wasn’t until going through Financial Peace University at our Church that things really started to click for us. Even $5 a day could start to really have an impact on our finances and gave us the motivation we needed to really get intense about our financial goals and dreams.
I am in no way, shape, or form a financial expert (quite the opposite in fact) but here are some things I’ve learned from the experts that have been so helpful in our own financial journey. When you are ready for more advice, see the the resources below.
1) Set Real Goals (and Write Them Down)
If there is anything I’ve really learned from going through Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, is the importance of making goals and writing them down! And this is true even for finances. Start thinking through your financial goals: paying off student loans, paying off credit cards, saving up to buy a car, saving up to buy a house, increase your emergency fund, save for retirement, etc.
Then, write down these goals! Crystal recommends putting your top 3 financial goals somewhere that you will see it everyday (on your bathroom mirror perhaps). I love this idea because it helps you to stay focused and motivated.
2) Establish a Budget
I know this sounds like basic advice, but for real, setting a budget will help you to meet your financial goals more than anything else. The months when we have made the most progress in our financial goals have been those months we’ve been super intense about setting our budget and really sticking to it.
But I have to be honest, this is something we are always working on. We are lousy at sticking to our budget! This is something we will be working on the next six months. We recently signed up for Mint.com (again – we tried it a few years ago and didn’t stick with it) and we are hoping it’s going to help make things easier.
3) Use Cash
We have gone back and forth on using cash to pay for things like groceries, gas, eating out, entertainment, etc. and we can definitely tell a difference when we pull out cash at the beginning of the month to budget for these things. It’s especially helpful for me when sticking to our grocery and eating out budget (which is the category that we blow our budget on the most).
Things are going to be a little funky for the next few months (we are due with twins in just a few short weeks) but we hope to really get back on track with our budget and using cash in the next six months or so.
4) Remember to Give
When going through tough financial situations or trying to save for a large goal, the first thing to fall off our budget is usually our giving. And while in certain seasons, this might have to happen for a short time (or at least your giving is reduced) it’s so easy to fall into a pattern of not giving.
It’s doesn’t have to be 30% of your income, or even 10%. I don’t think there needs to be a specific number, but give however you can. For a time, this might be 2-3% or $20 here and there when you can. But try to be consistent and as things improve, try to up that amount. Our dream is that one day we would be able to give far more than 10% of our income – first to our local church and then to other ministries. Here is a great sermon on God’s Plan for Giving.
Obviously the subject of finances goes a lot deeper than we are going to cover here in one short blog post. But I hope this gave you some encouragement to get going on those financial goals! If you want to dive deeper (which I encourage you to do), here are some awesome resources to get you started:
- The Total Money Makeover – Dave Ramsey
- The Dave Ramsey Radio Show
- Christian Personal Finance – A WONDERFUL website full of resources
- Mint.com – Online budgeting software
- Financial Peace University - A great course to go through as a class if you can find one
Read More In This Series:
- The 10 Week Schedule for our Online Book Study
- Taking the First Step in Gaining Control of Your Home
- Taking on Too Much – Learning To Say NO in Your Homemaking
- Creating a Personal Priorities List – For your Life and Homemaking
- Determining How You Should Spend Your Time as a Homemaker
- Creating a Manageable Routine & Schedule as a Homemaker
- Setting Goals in your Home so you can Stay on Task & Focused!
- How to Turn Your Homemaking Goals into a Reality
- Learning Self-Discipline Must First Start with Christ
- Come back for more – every Tuesday & Thursday!